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´╗┐Title: How to Study and Teaching How to Study
Author: McMurry, Frank M. (Frank Morton)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "How to Study and Teaching How to Study" ***

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Professor of Elementary Education in
Teachers College, Columbia University



Some seven or eight years ago the question, of how to teach children
to study happened to be included in a list of topics that I hastily
prepared for discussion with one of my classes. On my later
examination of this problem I was much surprised, both at its
difficulty and scope, and also at the extent to which it had been
neglected by teachers. Ever since that time the two questions, How
adults should study, and How children should be taught to study, have
together been my chief hobby.

The following ideas are partly the result of reading; but since there
is a meagre quantity of literature bearing on this general theme, they
are largely the result of observation, experiment, and discussion with
my students. Many of the latter will recognize their own contributions
in these pages, for I have endeavored to preserve and use every good
suggestion that came from them; and I am glad to acknowledge here my
indebtedness to them.

In addition I must express my thanks for valuable criticisms to my
colleague, Dr. George D. Strayer, and also to Dr. Lida B. Earhart,
whose suggestive monograph on the same general subject has just
preceded this publication.


_Teachers College_, May 6,1909.





















No doubt every one can recall peculiar methods of study that he or
some one else has at some time followed. During my attendance at high
school I often studied aloud at home, along with several other
temporary or permanent members of the family. I remember becoming
exasperated at times by one of my girl companions. She not only read
her history aloud, but as she read she stopped to repeat each sentence
five times with great vigor. Although the din interfered with my own
work, I could not help but admire her endurance; for the physical
labor of mastering a lesson was certainly equal to that of a good farm
hand, for the same period of time.

This way of studying history seemed extremely ridiculous. But the
method pursued by myself and several others in beginning algebra at
about the same time was not greatly superior. Our text-book contained
several long sets of problems which were the terror of the class, and
scarcely one of which we were able to solve alone. We had several
friends, however, who could solve them, and, by calling upon them for
help, we obtained the "statement" for each one. All these statements I
memorized, and in that way I was able to "pass off" the subject.

A few years later, when a school principal, I had a fifteen-year-old
boy in my school who was intolerably lazy. His ambition was
temporarily aroused, however, when he bought a new book and began the
study of history. He happened to be the first one called upon, in the
first recitation, and he started off finely. But soon he stopped, in
the middle of a sentence, and sat down. When I asked him what was the
matter, he simply replied that that was as far as he had got. Then, on
glancing at the book, I saw that he had been reproducing the text
_verbatim_, and the last word that he had uttered was the last word on
the first page.

These few examples suggest the extremes to which young people may go
in their methods of study. The first instance might illustrate the
muscular method of learning history; the second, the memoriter method
of reasoning in mathematics. I have never been able to imagine how the
boy, in the third case, went about his task; hence, I can suggest no
name for his method.

While these methods of study are ridiculous, I am not at all sure that
they are in a high degree exceptional.

_Collective examples of study_

The most extensive investigation of this subject has been made by Dr.
Lida B. Earhart,[Footnote: _Systematic Study in the Elementary
Schools._ A popular form of this thesis, entitled _Teaching Children
to Study_, is published in the Riverside Educational Monographs.] and
the facts that she has collected reveal a woeful ignorance of the
whole subject of study.

Among other tests, she assigned to eleven- and twelve-year-old
children a short selection from a text-book in geography, with the
following directions: "Here is a lesson from a book such as you use in
class. Do whatever you think you ought to do in studying this lesson
thoroughly, and then tell (write down) the different things you have
done in studying it. Do not write anything else." [Footnote:
_Ibid._, Chapter 4.]

Out of 842 children who took this test, only fourteen really found, or
stated that they had found, the subject of the lesson. Two others said
that they _would_ find it. Eighty-eight really found, or stated that
they had found, the most important parts of the lesson; twenty-one
others, that they _would_ find them. Four verified the statements in
the text, and three others said that they _would_ do that. Nine
children did nothing; 158 "did not understand the requirements"; 100
gave irrelevant answers; 119 merely "thought," or "tried to understand
the lesson," or "studied the lesson"; and 324 simply wrote the facts
of the lesson. In other words, 710 out of the 842 sixth- and seventh-
grade pupils who took the test gave indefinite and unsatisfactory
answers. This number showed that they had no clear knowledge of the
principal things to be done in mastering an ordinary text-book lesson
in geography. Yet the schools to which they belonged were, beyond
doubt, much above the average in the quality of their instruction.

In a later and different test, in which the children were asked to
find the subject of a certain lesson that was given to them, 301 out
of 828 stated the subject fairly well. The remaining 527 gave only
partial, or indefinite, or irrelevant answers. Only 317 out of the 828
were able to discover the most important fact in the lesson. Yet
determining the subject and the leading facts are among the main
things that any one must do in mastering a topic. How they could have
been intelligent in their study in the past, therefore, is difficult
to comprehend.

_Teachers' and parents complaints about methods of study._

It is, perhaps, unnecessary to collect proofs that young people do not
learn how to study, because teachers admit the fact very generally.
Indeed, it is one of the common subjects of complaint among teachers
in the elementary school, in the high school, and in the college. All
along the line teachers condole with one another over this evil,
college professors placing the blame on the instructors in the high
school, and the latter passing it down to teachers in the elementary
school. Parents who supervise their children's studies, or who
otherwise know about their habits of work, observe the same fact with
sorrow. It is at least refreshing to find one matter, in the much-
disputed field of education, on which teachers and parents are well

How about the methods of study among teachers themselves? Unless they
have learned to study properly, young people cannot, of course, be
expected to acquire proper habits from them. _Method of study among
teachers._ The most enlightening single experience I have ever had
on this question came several years ago in connection with a series of
lectures on Primary Education. A course of such lectures had been
arranged for me without my full knowledge, and I was unexpectedly
called upon to begin it before a class of some seventy-five teachers.
It was necessary to commence speaking without having definitely
determined my first point. I had, however, a few notes which I was
attempting to decipher and arrange, while talking as best I could,
when I became conscious of a slight clatter from all parts of the
room. On looking up I found that the noise came from the pencils of my
audience, and they were writing down my first pointless remarks.
Evidently discrimination in values was not in their program. They call
to mind a certain theological student who had been very unsuccessful
in taking notes from lectures. In order to prepare himself, he spent
one entire summer studying stenography. Even after that, however, he
was unsuccessful, because he could not write quite fast enough to take
down _all_ that was said.

Even more mature students often reveal very meager knowledge of
methods of study. I once had a class of some thirty persons, most of
whom were men twenty-five to thirty-five years of age, who were
college graduates and experienced teachers. One day I asked them,
"When has a book been read properly?" The first reply came from a
state university graduate and school superintendent, in the words,
"One has read a book properly when one understands what is in it."
Most of the others assented to this answer. But when they were asked,
"Is a person under any obligations to judge the worth of the thought?"
they divided, some saying yes, others no. Then other questions arose,
and the class as a whole soon appeared to be quite at sea as to the
proper method of reading books. Perhaps the most interesting thing was
the fact that they seemed never to have thought seriously about the
matter. Fortunately Dr. Earhart has not overlooked teachers' methods
of study in her investigations. In a _questionnaire_ that was filled
out by 165 teachers, the latter were requested to state the principal
things that ought to be done in "thinking about a lesson." This was
practically the same test as was given to the 842 children before
mentioned. While at least twenty different things were named by these
teachers, the most frequent one was, "Finding the most important
points." [Footnote: _Ibid._, Chapter 5.] Yet only fifty-five out
of the 165 included even this. Only twenty-five, as Dr. Earhart says,
"felt, keenly enough to mention it, the necessity of finding the main
thought or problem." Forty admitted that they memorized more often
than they did anything else in their studying. Strange to say, a
larger percentage of children than of teachers mentioned finding the
main thought, and finding the more important facts, as two factors in
mastering a lesson. Water sometimes appears to rise higher than its

About two-thirds of these 165 teachers [Footnote: _Ibid._, Chapter 5.]
declared that they had never received any systematic instruction about
how to study, and more than half of the remainder stated that they
were taught to memorize in studying. The number who had given any
careful instruction on proper methods of study to their own pupils was
insignificant. Yet these 165 teachers had had unusual training on the
whole, and most of them had taught several years in elementary
schools. If teachers are so poorly informed, and if they are doing so
little to instruct their pupils on this subject, how can the latter be
expected to know how to study?

_The prevailing definition of study._

The prevailing definition of study gives further proof of a very
meager notion in regard to it. Frequently during the last few years I
have obtained from students in college, as well as from teachers,
brief statements of their idea of study. Fully nine out of every ten
have given memorizing as its nearest synonym.

It is true that teachers now and then insist that studying should
consist of _thinking_. They even send children to their seats with the
direction to "think, think hard." But that does not usually signify
much. A certain college student, when urged to spend not less than an
hour and a half on each lesson, replied, "What would I do after the
first twenty minutes?" His idea evidently was that he could read each
lesson through and memorize its substance in that time. What more
remained to be done? Very few teachers, I find, are fluent in
answering his question. In practice, memorizing constitutes much the
greater part of study.

The very name recitation suggests this fact. If the school periods are
to be spent in reciting, or reproducing, what has been learned, the
work of preparation very naturally consists in storing the memory with
the facts that are to be required. _Thinking periods_, as a substitute
name for recitation periods, suggests a radical change, both in our
employment of school time and in our method of preparing lessons. We
are not yet prepared for any such change of name.

_The literature dealing with method of study._

Consider finally the literature treating of study. Certainly there has
never been a period when there was a more general interest in
education than during the last twenty years, and the progress that has
been made in that time is remarkable. Our study of the social view-
point, of child nature, of apperception, interest, induction,
deduction, correlation, etc., has been rapidly revolutionizing the
school, securing a much more sympathetic government of young people, a
new curriculum, and far more effective methods of instruction. In
consequence, the injuries inflicted by the school are fewer and less
often fatal than formerly, while the benefits are more numerous and
more vital. But, in the vast quantity of valuable educational
literature that has been published, careful searching reveals only two
books in English, and none in German, on the "Art of Study." Even
these two are ordinary books on teaching, with an extraordinary title.

The subject of memorizing has been well treated in some of our
psychologies, and has received attention in a few of the more recent
works on method. Various other problems pertaining to study have also,
of course, been considered more or less, in the past, in books on
method, in rhetorics, and in discussions of selection of reading
matter. In addition, there are a few short but notable essays on
study. There have been practically, however, only two books that treat
mainly of this subject,--the two small volumes by Dr. Earhart, already
mentioned, which have been very recently published. In the main, the
thoughts on this general subject that have got into print have found
expression merely as incidents in the treatment of other themes--coming,
strange to say, largely from men outside the teaching profession--and
are contained in scattered and forgotten sources.

Thus it is evident not only that children and teachers are little
acquainted with proper methods of study, but that even sources of
information on the subject are strangely lacking.

The seriousness of such neglect is not to be overestimated. Wrong
methods of study, involving much unnecessary friction, prevent
enjoyment of school. This want of enjoyment results in much dawdling
of time, a meager quantity of knowledge, and a desire to quit school
at the first opportunity. The girl who adopted the muscular method of
learning history was reasonably bright. But she had to study very
"hard"; the results achieved in the way of marks often brought tears;
and, although she attended the high school several years, she never
finished the course. It should not be forgotten that most of those who
stop school in the elementary grades leave simply because they want
to, not because they must.

Want of enjoyment of school is likely to result, further, in distaste
for intellectual employment in general. Yet we know that any person
who amounts to much must do considerable thinking, and must even take
pleasure in it. Bad methods of study, therefore, easily become a
serious factor in adult life, acting as a great barrier to one's
growth and general usefulness.



Our physical movements ordinarily take place in response to a need of
some sort. For instance, a person wishing to reach a certain point, to
play a certain game, or to lay the foundations for a house, makes such
movements as are necessary to accomplish the purpose desired. Even
mere physical exercise grows out of a more or less specific feeling of

The mental activity called study is likewise called forth in response
to specific needs. The Eskimo, for example, compelled to find shelter
and having only blocks of ice with which to build, ingeniously
contrives an ice hut. For the sake of obtaining raw materials he
studies the habits of the few wild animals about him, and out of these
materials he manages by much invention to secure food, clothing, and

We ourselves, having a vastly greater variety of materials at hand,
and also vastly more ideas and ideals, are much more dependent upon
thinking and study. But, as in the case of the Eskimo, this thinking
and study arises out of actual conditions, and from specific wants. It
may be that we must contrive ways of earning more money; or that the
arguments for protective tariff seem too inconsistent for comfort; or
that the reports about some of our friends alarm us. The occasions
that call forth thought are infinite in number and kind. But the
essential fact is that study does not normally take place except under
the stimulus or spur of particular conditions, and of conditions, too,
that are unsatisfactory.

It does not take place even then unless we become conscious of the
strained situation, of the want of harmony between what is and what
might be. For ages malarial fever was accepted as a visitation by
Divine Providence, or as a natural inconvenience, like bad weather.
People were not disturbed by lack of harmony between what actually was
and what might be, because they did not conceive the possibility of
preventing the disease. Accordingly they took it as a matter of
course, and made no study of its cause. Very recently, on the other
hand, people have become conscious of the possibility of exterminating
malaria. The imagined state has made the real one more and more
intolerable; and, as this feeling of dissatisfaction has grown more
acute, study of the cause of the disease has grown more intense, until
it has finally been discovered. Thus a lively consciousness of the
unsatisfactoriness of a situation is the necessary prerequisite to its
investigation; it furnishes the motive for it.

It has ever been so in the history of evolution. Study has not taken
place without stimulus or motive. It has always had the practical task
of lifting us out of our difficulties, either material or spiritual,
and placing us on our feet. In this way it has been merely an
instrument--though a most important one--in securing our proper
adjustment or adaptation to our environment.[Footnote: For discussion
of this subject, see _Studies in Logical Theory_, by John Dewey.
See, also, _Systematic Study in Elementary Schools_, by Dr. Lida
B. Earhart, Chapters 1 and 2.]

_The variety of response to the demand for study_

After we have become acutely conscious of a misfit somewhere in our
experience, the actual study done to right it varies indefinitely with
the individual. The savage follows a hit-and-miss method of
investigation, and really makes his advances by happy guesses rather
than by close application. Charles Lamb's _Dissertation on Roast
Pig_ furnishes a typical example of such accidents.

The average civilized man of the present does only a little better.
How seldom, for instance, is the diet prescribed for a dyspeptic--whether
by himself or by a physician--the result of any intelligent study!
The true scientist, however, goes at his task in a careful and systematic
way. Recall, for instance, how the cause of yellow fever has been
discovered. For years people had attributed the disease to invisible
particles which they called "fomites." These were supposed to be given
off by the sick, and spread by means of their clothing and other
articles used by them. Investigation caused this theory to be abandoned.
Then, since Dr. J. C. Nott of Mobile had suggested, in 1848, that the
fever might be carried by the mosquito, and Dr. C. J.  Finlay of
Havana had declared, in 1881, that a mosquito of a certain kind would
carry the fever from one patient to another, this variety of mosquito
was assumed by Dr. Walter Reed, in 1900, to be the source of the
disease, and was subjected to very close investigation by him.  Several
men voluntarily received its bite and contracted the fever.  Soon,
enough cases were collected to establish the probable correctness of
the assumption. The remedy suggested--the utter destruction of this
particular kind of mosquito, including its eggs and larvae--was so
efficacious in combating the disease in Havana in 1901, and in New
Orleans in 1905, that the theory is now considered established. Thus
systematic study has relieved us of one of the most dreaded diseases
to which mankind has been subject.

_The principal factors in study_

An extensive study, like this investigation, into the cause of yellow
fever employs induction very plainly. It also employs deduction
extensively, inasmuch as hypotheses that have been reached more or
less inductively have to be widely applied and tested, and further
conclusions have to be drawn from them. Such a study, therefore,
involving both induction and deduction and their numerous short cuts,
contains the essential factors common to the investigation of other
topics, or to study in general; for different subjects cannot vary
greatly when it comes to the general method of their attack. An
analysis, therefore, which reveals the principal factors in this study
is likely to bring to light the main factors of study in general.

_1. The finding of specific purposes, as one factor in study_

If the search for the cause of yellow fever were traced more fully,
one striking feature discovered would be the fact that the
investigation was never aimless. The need of unraveling the mystery
was often very pressing, for we have had three great epidemics of
yellow fever in our own country since 1790, and scientists have been
eager to apply themselves to the problem. Yet a specific purpose, in
the form of a definite hypothesis of some sort, was felt to be
necessary before the study could proceed intelligently.

Thus, during the epidemic of 1793, the contagiousness of the disease
was debated. Then the theory of "fomites" arose, and underwent
investigation. Finally, the spread of the disease through the mosquito
was proposed for the solution. And while books of reference were
examined and new observations were collected in great number, such
work was not undertaken by the investigators primarily for the sake of
increasing their general knowledge, but with reference to the
particular issue at hand.

The important question now is, Is this, in general, the way in which
the ordinary student should work? Of course, he is much less mature
than the scientist, and the results that he achieves may have no
social value, in comparison. Yet, should his method be the same? At
least, should his study likewise be under the guidance of specific
purposes, so that these would direct and limit his reading,
observation, and independent thinking? Or would that be too narrow,
indeed, exactly the wrong way? And, instead of limiting himself to a
collection of such facts as help to answer the few problems that he
might be able to set up, should he be unmindful of particular
problems? Should he rather be a collector of facts at large,
endeavoring to develop an interest in whatever is true, simply because
it is true? Here are two quite different methods of study suggested.
Probably the latter is by far the more common one among immature
students. Yet the former is the one that, in the main, will be
advocated in this book as a factor of serious study.

_2. The supplementing of thought as a second factor in study._

Dr. Reed in this case went far beyond the discoveries of previous
investigators. Not only did he conceive new tests for old hypotheses,
but he posited new hypotheses, as well as collected the data that
would prove or disprove them. Thus, while he no doubt made much use of
previous facts, he went far beyond that and succeeded in enlarging the
confines of knowledge. That is a task that can be accomplished only by
the most mature and gifted of men.

The ordinary scholar must also be a collector of facts. But he must be
content to be a receiver rather than a contributor of knowledge; that
is, he must occupy himself mainly with the ideas of other persons, as
presented in books or lectures or conversation. Even when he takes up
the study of nature, or any other field, at first hand, he is
generally under the guidance of a teacher or some text.

Now, how much, if anything, must he add to what is directly presented
to him by others? To what extent must he be a producer in that sense?
Are authors, at the best, capable only of suggesting their thought,
leaving much that is incomplete and even hidden from view? And must
the student do much supplementing, even much _digging_, or severe
thinking of his own, in order to get at their meaning? Or, do authors--at
least the greatest of them--say most, or all, that they wish, and
make their meaning plain? And is it, accordingly, the duty of the
student merely to _follow_ their presentation without enlarging
upon it greatly?

The view will hereafter be maintained that any good author leaves much
of such work for the student to do. Any poor author certainly leaves
much more.

_3. The organization of facts collected, as a third factor in

The scientist would easily lose his way among the many facts that he
gathers for examination, did he not carefully select and bring them
into order. He arranges them in groups according to their relations,
recognizing a few as having supreme importance, subordinating many
others to these, and casting aside many more because of their
insignificance. This all constitutes a large part of his study.

What duty has the less mature student in regard to organization?
Should the statements that he receives be put into order by him? Are
some to be selected as vital, others to be grouped under these, and
still others to be slighted or even entirely omitted from
consideration, because of their insignificance? And is he to determine
all this for himself, remembering that thorough study requires the
neglect of some things as well as the emphasis of others? Or do all
facts have much the same value, so that they should receive about
equal attention, as is the case with the multiplication tables? And,
instead of being grouped according to relations and relative values,
should they be studied, one at a time, in the order in which they are
presented, with the idea that a topic is mastered when each single
statement upon it is understood? Or, if not this, has the reliable
author at least already attended to this whole matter, making the
various relations of facts to one another and their relative values so
clear that the student has little work to do but to follow the printed
statement? Is it even highly unsafe for the latter to assume the
responsibility of judging relative values? And would the neglect or
skipping of many supposedly little things be more likely to result in
careless, slipshod work than in thoroughness?

_4. The judging of the worth of statements, as a fourth factor in

The scientist in charge of the above-mentioned investigation was, no
doubt, a modest man. Yet he saw fit to question the old assumption
that yellow fever was spread by invisible particles called "fomites."
Indeed, he had the boldness to disprove it. Then he disproved, also,
the assumption that the fever was contagious by contact. After that he
set out to test a hypothesis of his own. His attitude toward the
results of former investigations was thus skeptically critical. Every
proposition was to be questioned, and the evidence of facts, rather
than personal authority or the authority of time, was the sole final
test of validity.

What should be the attitude of the young student toward the
authorities that he studies? Certainly authors are, as a rule, more
mature and far better informed upon the subjects that they discuss
than he, otherwise he would not be pursuing them. Are they still so
prone to error that he should be critical toward them? At any rate,
should he set himself up as their judge; at times condemning some of
their statements outright, or accepting them only in part,--and thus
maintain independent views? Or would that be the height of presumption
on his part? While it is true that all authors are liable to error,
are they much less liable to it in their chosen fields than he, and
can he more safely trust them than himself? And should he, therefore,
being a learner, adopt a docile, passive attitude, and accept whatever
statements are presented? Or, finally, is neither of these attitudes
correct? Instead of either condemning or accepting authors, is it his
duty merely to understand and remember what they say?

_5. Memorizing, as a fifth factor in study_

The scientist is greatly dependent upon his memory. So is every one
else, including the young student. What suggestions, if any, can be
made about the retaining of facts?

In particular, how prominent in study should be the effort to
memorize? Should memorizing constitute the main part of study--as it
so often does--or only a minor part? It is often contrasted with
thinking. Is such a contrast justified? If so, should the effort to
memorize usually precede the thinking--as is often the order in
learning poetry and Bible verses--or should it follow the thinking?
And why? Can one greatly strengthen the memory by special exercises
for that purpose? Finally, since there are some astonishingly poor
ways of memorizing--as was shown in chapter one--there must be some
better ways. What, then, are the best, and why?

_6. The using of ideas, as a sixth factor in study_

Does all knowledge, like this of the scientist, require contact with the
world as its endpoint or goal? And is it the duty of the student to
pursue any topic, whether it be a principle of physics, or a moral idea,
or a simple story, until it proves of benefit to some one? In that
case, enough repetition might be necessary to approximate habits--habits
of mind and habits of action--for the skill necessary for the successful
use of some knowledge cannot otherwise be attained. How, then, can
habits become best established? Or is knowledge something apart from
the active world, ending rather in self?

Would it be narrowly utilitarian and even foolish to expect that one's
learning shall necessarily function in practical life? And should the
student rather rest content to acquire knowledge for its own sake, not
bothering--for the present, at any rate--about actually bringing it to
account in any way?

The use to which his ideas had to be put gave Dr. Reed an excellent
test of their reliability. No doubt he passed through many stages of
doubt as he investigated one theory after another. And he could not
feel reasonably sure that he was right and had mastered his problem
until his final hypothesis had been shown to hold good under varying
actual conditions.

What test has the ordinary student for knowing when he knows a thing
well enough to leave it? He may set up specific purposes to be
accomplished, as has been suggested. Yet even these may be only ideas;
what means has he for knowing when they have been attained? It is a
long distance from the first approach to an important thought, to its
final assimilation, and nothing is easier than to stop too soon. If
there are any waymarks along the road, indicating the different stages
reached; particularly, if there is a recognizable endpoint assuring
mastery, one might avoid many dangerous headers by knowing the fact.
Or is that particularly what recitations and marks are for? And
instead of expecting an independent way of determining when he has
mastered a subject, should the student simply rely upon his teacher to
acquaint him with that fact?

_7. The tentative attitude as a seventh factor in study_

Investigators of the source of yellow fever previous to Dr. Reed
reached conclusions as well as he. But, in the light of later
discovery, they appear hasty and foolish, to the extent that they were
insisted upon as correct. A large percentage of the so-called
discoveries that are made, even by laboratory experiment, are later
disproved. Even in regard to this very valuable work of Dr. Reed and
his associates, one may feel too sure. It is quite possible that
future study will materially supplement and modify our present
knowledge of the subject. The scientist, therefore, may well assume an
attitude of doubt toward all the results that he achieves.

Does the same hold for the young student? Is all our knowledge more or
less doubtful, so that we should hold ourselves ready to modify our
ideas at any time? And, remembering the common tendency to become
dogmatic and unprogressive on that account, should the young student,
in particular, regard some degree of uncertainty about his facts as
the ideal state of mind for him to reach? Or would such uncertainty
too easily undermine his self-confidence and render him vacillating in
action? And should firmly fixed ideas, rather than those that are
somewhat uncertain, be regarded as his goal, so that the extent to
which he feels sure of his knowledge may be taken as one measure of
his progress? Or can it be that there are two kinds of knowledge? That
some facts are true for all time, and can be learned as absolutely
true; and that others are only probabilities and must be treated as
such? In that case, which is of the former kind, and which is of the

_8. Provision for individuality as an eighth factor in study_

The scientific investigator must determine upon his own hypotheses; he
must collect and organize his data, must judge their soundness and
trace their consequences; and he must finally decide for himself when
he has finished a task. All this requires a high degree of
intellectual independence, which is possible only through a healthy
development of individuality, or of the native self.

A normal self giving a certain degree of independence and even a touch
of originality to all of his thoughts and actions is essential to the
student's proper advance, as to the work of the scientist. Should the
student, therefore, be taught to believe in and trust himself, holding
his own powers and tendencies in high esteem? Should he learn even to
ascribe whatever merit he may possess to the qualities that are peculiar
to him? And should he, accordingly, look upon the ideas and influences
of other persons merely as a means--though most valuable--for the
development of this self that he holds so sacred? Or should he
learn to depreciate himself, to deplore those qualities that
distinguish him from others? And should he, in consequence, regard the
ideas and influences of others as a valuable means of suppressing, or
escaping from, his native self and of making him like other persons?

Here are two very different directions in which one may develop. In
which direction does human nature most tend? In which direction do
educational institutions, in particular, exert their influence? Does
the average student, for example, subordinate his teachers and the
ideas he acquires to himself? Or does he become subordinated to these,
even submerged by them? This is the most important of all the problems
concerning study; indeed, it is the one in which all the others

_The ability of children to study_

The above constitute the principal factors in study. But two other
problems are of vital importance for the elementary school.

Studying is evidently a complex and taxing kind of work. Even though
the above discussions reveal the main factors in the study of adults,
what light does it throw upon the work of children? Is their study to
contain these factors also? The first of these two questions,
therefore, is, Can children from six to fourteen years of age really
be expected to study?

It is not the custom in German elementary schools to include
independent study periods in the daily program. More than that, the
German language does not even permit children to be spoken of as
studying. Children are recognized as being able to learn (_lernen_);
but the foreigner, who, in learning German, happens to use the word
_studiren_ (study) in reference to them, is corrected with a smile and
informed that "children can learn but they cannot study." _Studiren_
is a term applicable only to a more mature kind of mental work.

This may be only a peculiarity of language. But such suggestions
should at least lead us to consider this question seriously. If
children really cannot study, what an excuse their teachers have for
innumerable failures in this direction! And what sins they have
committed in demanding study! But, then, when is the proper age for
study reached? Certainly college students sometimes seem to have
failed to attain it. If, however, children can study, to what extent
can they do it, and at how early an age should they begin to try?

_The method of teaching children how to study_

The second of these two questions relates to the method of teaching
children how to study. Granted that there are numerous very important
factors in study, what should be done about them? Particularly,
assuming that children have some power to study, what definite
instruction can teachers give to them in regard to any one or all of
these factors?

Can it be that, on account of their youth, no direct instruction about
method of study would be advisable, that teachers should set a good
example of study by their treatment of lessons in class, and rely only
upon the imitative tendency of children for some effect on their
habits of work? Or should extensive instruction be imparted to them,
as well as to adults, on this subject?

The leading problems in study that have been mentioned will be
successively discussed in the chapters following. These two questions,
however, Can children study? and If so, how can they be taught to do
it? will not be treated in chapters separate from the others. Each
will be dealt with in connection with the above factors, their
consideration immediately following the discussion of each of those
factors. While the proper method of study for adults will lead, much
emphasis will fall, throughout, upon suggestions for teaching children
how to study.

_Some limitations of the term study_

The nature of study cannot be known in full until the character of its
component parts has been clearly shown. Yet a working definition of
the term and some further limitations of it may be in place here.

Study, in general, is the work that is necessary in the assimilation
of ideas. Much of this work consists in thinking. But study is not
synonymous with thinking, for it also includes other activities, as
mechanical drill, for example. Such drill is often necessary in the
mastery of thought.

Not just any thinking and any drill, however, may be counted as study.
At least only such thinking and such drill are here included within
the term as are integral parts of the mental work that is necessary in
the accomplishment of valuable purposes. Thinking that is done at
random, and drills that have no object beyond acquaintance with dead
facts, as those upon dates, lists of words, and location of places,
for instance, are unworthy of being considered a part of study.

Day-dreaming, giving way to reverie and to casual fancy, too, is not
to be regarded as study. Not because it is not well to indulge in such
activity at times, but because it is not serious enough to be called
work. Study is systematic work, and not play. Reading for recreation,
further, is not study. It is certainly very desirable and even
necessary, just as play is. It even partakes of many of the
characteristics of true study, and reaps many of its benefits. No
doubt, too, the extensive reading that children and youth now do might
well partake more fully of the nature of study. It would result in
more good and less harm; for, beyond a doubt, much careless reading is
injurious to habits of serious study. Yet it would be intolerable to
attempt to convert pleasure-reading fully into real study. That would
mean that we had become too serious.

On the whole, then, the term study as here used has largely the
meaning that is given to it in ordinary speech. Yet it is not entirely
the same; the term signifies a purposive and systematic, and therefore
a more limited, kind of work than much that goes under that name.





_The habit among eminent men of setting up specific purposes of

The scientific investigator habitually sets up hypotheses of some sort
as guides in his investigations. Many distinguished men who are not
scientists follow and recommend a somewhat similar method of study.

For example, John Morley, M.P., in his _Aspects of Modern Study_,
[Footnote: Page 71.] says, "Some great men,--Gibbon was one and Daniel
Webster was another and the great Lord Strafford was a third,--always,
before reading a book, made a short, rough analysis of the questions
which they expected to be answered in it, the additions to be made to
their knowledge, and whither it would take them. I have sometimes
tried that way of studying, and guiding attention; I have never done
so without advantage, and I commend it to you." Says Gibbon [Footnote:
Dr. Smith's Gibbon, p. 64.], "After glancing my eye over the design
and order of a new book, I suspended the perusal until I had finished
the task of self-examination; till I had resolved, in a solitary walk,
all that I knew or believed or had thought on the subject of the whole
work or of some particular chapter; I was then qualified to discern
how much the author added to my original stock; and, if I was
sometimes satisfied with the agreement, I was sometimes armed by the
opposition of our ideas."

President James Angell emphasizes a similar thought in the following

I would like to recommend to my young friends who desire to profit by
the use of this library, the habit of reading with some system, and of
making brief notes upon the contents of the books they read. If, for
instance, you are studying the history of some period, ascertain what
works you need to study, and find such parts of them as concern your
theme. Do not feel obliged to read the whole of a large treatise, but
select such chapters as touch on the subject in hand and omit the rest
for the time.

Young students often get swamped and lose their way in the Serbonian
bogs of learning, when they need to explore only a simple and plain
pathway to a specific destination. Have a purpose and a plan, and
adhere to it in spite of alluring temptations to turn aside into
attractive fields that are remote from your subject.[Footnote: Address
at Dedication of Ryerson Public Library Building, Grand Rapids, Mich.,
Oct. 5, 1904.]

Noah Porter expresses himself even more pointedly in these words:--

In reading we do well to propose to ourselves definite ends and
purposes. The distinct consciousness of some object at present before
us, imparts a manifold greater interest to the contents of any volume.
It imparts to the reader an appropriative power, a force of affinity,
by which he insensibly and unconsciously attracts to himself all that
has a near or even a remote relation to the end for which he reads.
Anyone is conscious of this who reads a story with the purpose of
repeating it to an absent friend; or an essay or a report, with the
design of using the facts or arguments in a debate; or a poem, with
the design of reviving its imagery and reciting its finest passages.
Indeed, one never learns to read effectively until he learns to read
in such a spirit--not always, indeed, for a definite end, yet always
with a mind attent to appropriate and retain and turn to the uses of
culture, if not to a more direct application. The private history of
every self-made man, from Franklin onwards, attests that they all were
uniformly, not only earnest but select, in their reading, and that
they selected their books with distinct reference to the purposes for
which they used them. Indeed, the reason why self-trained men so often
surpass men who are trained by others in the effectiveness and success
of their reading, is that they know for what they read and study, and
have definite aims and wishes in all their dealings with books.
[Footnote: Noah Porter, Books and Reading, pp. 41-42.]

_Examples of specific purposes_

It is evident from the above that the practice of setting up specific
aims for study is not uncommon. Some actual examples of such purposes,
however, may help to make their character plainer. Following are a
number of examples of a very simple kind: (1) To examine the
catalogues of several colleges to determine what college one will
attend; (2) to read a newspaper with the purpose of telling the news
of the day to some friend; (3) to study Norse myths in order to relate
them to children; (4) to investigate the English sparrow to find out
whether it is a nuisance, or a valuable friend, to man; (5) to
acquaint one's self with the art and geography of Italy, so as to
select the most desirable parts for a visit; (6) to learn about Paris
in order to find whether it is fitly called the most beautiful of
cities; (7) to study psychology with the object of discovering how to
improve one's memory, or how to overcome certain bad habits; (8) to
read Pestalozzi's biography for the sake of finding what were the main
factors that led to his greatness; (9) to examine Lincoln's Gettysburg
speech with the purpose of convincing others of its excellence.

_The character of these aims_

Well-selected ends of this sort have two characteristics that are
worthy of special note. The first pertains to their _source_. Their
possible variety is without limit. Some may be or an intellectual
nature, as numbers 6, 8, and 9 among those listed above; some may aim
at utility for the individual, as numbers 1 and 7; and some may
involve service to others, as numbers 2 and 3. But however much they
vary, they find their source _within_ the person concerned. They
spring out of his own experience and appeal to him for that reason.
One very important measure of their worth is the extent to which they
represent an individual desire.

The second characteristic pertains to their _narrowness_ and
consequent _definiteness_. They call in each case for an investigation
of a relatively small and definite topic. This can be further seen
from the following topics in Biology: What household plants are most
desirable? How can these plants be raised? What are their principal
enemies, and how can these best be overcome? Whether we be working on
one or more of such problems at a time, they are so specific that we
need never be confused as to what we are attempting.

The nature of these aims in study can be made still clearer by
contrasting them with others that are very common. The "harmonious
development of all the faculties," or mental discipline, for instance,
has long been lauded by educators as one chief purpose in study.
Agassiz was one such educator, and in his desire to cultivate the
power of observation, he is said to have set students at work upon the
study of fishes without directions, to struggle as they might. Many
teachers of science before and since his time have followed a similar
method. Truth for truth's sake, or the idea that one should study
merely for the sake of knowing, has often been associated with mental
discipline as a worthy end. Culture is a third common purpose.

Each of these aims, instead of originating in the particular interests
of the individual, is reached by consideration of life as a whole, and
of the final purposes of education. They are too general in nature to
recognize individual preferences, and they are also too general to
cause much discrimination in the selection of topics and of particular
facts within topics. Strange to say, however, they have discriminated
against the one kind of knowledge that the aforementioned specific
aims emphasize as especially desirable. Under their exclusive
influence, for example, students of biology have generally made an
extensive study of wild plants and have paid little attention to house
plants. Such subjects as physics, fine art, and biology cannot help
but impart much information that relates to man; but that relationship
has generally been the last part reached in the treatment of each
topic, and the part most neglected. Under the influence of these
general aims any useful purpose, whether involving service to the
individual or to society at large, has somehow been eschewed or
thought too sordid to be worthy of the scholar.

_The relation of specific purposes to those that are more

Nevertheless, these two kinds of aims are not necessarily opposed to
each other. If a person can increase his mental power, or his love of
knowledge, or his culture, at the same time that he is accomplishing
specific purposes, why should he not do so? The gain is so much the

Not only are the two kinds not mutually opposed, but they are really
necessary to each other. General purposes when rightly conceived are
of the greatest importance as the _final_ goals to be reached by
study. But they are too remote of attainment to act as immediate
guides. Others more detailed must perform that office and mark off the
minor steps to be taken in the accomplishment of the larger purposes.
Thus the narrower purposes are related to the larger ones as means to

_Ways in which specific purposes are valuable
1. As a source of motive power_

Specific purposes are necessary in the first place, because they help
to supply motive power both for study and for life in general. Proper
study requires abundant energy, for it is hard work; and young people
cannot be expected to engage in it heartily without good reason. In
particular, it requires very close and sustained attention, which it
is most difficult to give. Threats and punishments can, at the best,
secure it only in part; for young people who thus suffer habitually
reserve a portion of their energy to imagine the full meanness of
their persecutors and, not seldom, to devise ways of getting even.
Neither can direct exercise of will insure undivided attention. How
often have all of us, conscious that we _ought_ fully to concentrate
attention upon some task, determined to do so in vain.

The best single guarantee of close and continuous attention is a deep,
direct interest in the work in hand, an interest similar in kind to
that which children have in play. Such interest serves the same
purpose with man as steam does in manufacturing,--it is motive power,
and it is as necessary to provide for it in the one case as in the

Broad, general aims cannot generate this interest, for abstractions do
not arouse enthusiasm. It is the concrete, the detailed, that arouses
interest, particularly that detail that is closely related to life. We
all remember how, in the midst of listless reading, we have sometimes
awakened with a start, when we realized that what we were reading bore
directly upon some vital interest. Specific purposes of the kind
described insure the interest, and therefore the energy, necessary for
full and sustained attention. "For remember," says Lowell, "that there
is nothing less profitable than scholarship for the mere sake of
scholarship, nor anything more wearisome in the attainment. But the
moment you have a definite aim, attention is quickened, the mother of
memory, and all that you acquire groups and arranges itself in an
order that is lucid, because everywhere and always it is in
intelligent relation to a central object of constant and growing
interest." [Footnote: Lowell, Books and Libraries.] If eminent
scholars thus value and actually make use of concrete purposes,
certainly immature students, whose attention is much less "trained,"
can follow their example with profit.

Life in general, as well as study, requires motive power. Energy to do
many kinds of things is so important that one's worth depends as much
upon it as upon knowledge. Indeed, if there must be some lack in one
of these two, it were probably better that it be in knowledge.

A deep many-sided interest is a key also to this broader kind of
energy. Yet how often is such interest lacking! This lack of interest
is seen among high-school students in the selection of subjects for
commencement essays; good subjects are difficult to find because
interests are so rare. It is seen among college students in their
choice of elective courses; for they often seem to have no strong
interest beyond that of avoiding hard work. It is seen in many college
graduates who are roundly developed only in the sense that they are
about equally indifferent toward all things. And, finally, it is seen
in the great number of men and women who, without ambition, drift
aimlessly through life. Well-chosen specific purposes will help
materially to remedy these evils, for there is no dividing line
between good study-purposes and good life-purposes. The first must
continually merge into the second; and the interest aroused by the
former, with its consequent energy, gives assurance of interested and
energetic pursuance of the latter.

The importance of being rich in unsolved problems is not likely to be
overestimated. Most well-informed adults who have little "push" are
not lazy by nature; they have merely failed to fall in love with
worthy aims. That is often partly because education has been allowed
to mean to them little more than the collecting of facts. If it had
included the collection of interesting and valuable purposes as well,
their devotion to proper aims in life might have grown as have their
facts; then their energy might have kept pace with their knowledge.

If students, therefore, regularly occupy a portion of their study time
in thinking out live questions that they hope to have answered by
their further study, and interesting uses that they intend to make of
their knowledge, they are equipping themselves with motive power both
for study and for the broader work of life.

_2. As a basis for the selection and organization of facts_

One of the constant dangers in study is that facts will be collected
without reference either to their values, as previously stated, or to
their arrangement. Nature study frequently illustrates this danger.
For instance, I once witnessed a recitation in which each member of a
class of eleven-year-old children was supplied with a dead oak leaf
and asked to write a description of it in detail. The entire period
was occupied with the task, and following is a copy of one of the
papers, without its figures.

                 THE OAK LEAF.

Greatest length.........   Length of the stem....
Greatest breadth........   Color of the stem.....
Number of lobes.........   Color of the leaf.....
Number of indentations..   General shape.........

The other papers closely resembled this one. Consider the worth of
such knowledge! This is one way in which time is wasted in school and
college. Probably the main reason for the choice of this topic was the
fact that the leaves could be easily obtained. But if the teacher had
been in the habit of setting up specific aims, and therefore of asking
how such matter would prove valuable in life, she would have never
given this lesson--unless higher authorities had required it.

One of my classes of about seventy primary teachers in the study of
education once undertook to plan subject-matter in nature study for
six-year-old children in Brooklyn. They agreed that the common house
cat would be a fitting topic. And on being asked to state what facts
they might teach, they gave the following sub-topics in almost exactly
this order and wording: the ears; food and how obtained; the tongue;
paws, including cushions; whiskers; teeth; action of tail; sounds;
sharp hearing; sense of smell; cleanliness; eyes; looseness of the
skin; quick waking; size of mouth; manner of catching prey; claws;
care of young; locomotion; kinds of prey; enemies; protection by
society for the prevention of cruelty to animals,--twenty-two topics
in all. When I inquired if they would teach the length of the tail, or
the shape of the head and ears, or the length and shape of the legs,
or the number of claws or of teeth, most of them said "no" with some
hesitation, and some made no reply. When asked what more needed to be
done with this list before presenting the subject to the children,
some suggested that those facts pertaining to the head should be
grouped together, likewise those pertaining to the body and those in
regard to the extremities. Some rejected this suggestion, but offered
no substitute. No general agreement to omit some of the topics in the
list was reached, and most of the class saw no better plan than to
present the subject, cat, under the twenty-two headings given.

Although there were college graduates present, and many capable women,
it was evident that they carried no standard for judging the value of
facts or for organizing them. The setting up of specific purposes
seemed to offer them the aid that they needed. Since this was in
Brooklyn, where the main relation of cats to children is that of pets,
we took up the study of the animal with the purpose of finding to what
extent cats as pets can provide for themselves, and to what extent,
therefore, they need to be taken care of, and how.

Under these headings the sub-topics given, with a few omissions and
additions, might be arranged as follows:

Under first aim:--

   I. _Food_ (chief thing necessary).

      1. Kinds of prey...{ Mice
                          \Moles, etc.
                          /Eyes, that see in dark;
      2. How found.....  {   structure.
                         { Sense of smell; keenness.
                          \Ears; keenness.

                         / Approach; use of whiskers.
                         | Quietness of movements;
                         |   how so quiet (padded feet,
                         |   loose joints, manner of
                         |   walking).
                         | Action of tail.
      3. How caught.....{  Catching and holding;
                         |   ability to spring; strength of
                         |   hind legs.
                         | Fore paws; used like hands.
                         |   Claws; shape, sharpness,
                         \   and sheaths.

   II. _Shelter._ Use of covering.
                       Finding of warm place in coldest weather.

Under second aim:--

   I. _Food_ (when prey is wanting).
                   Kinds and where obtained: milk; scraps
                     from table; biscuit; catnip.
                   Observe method of drinking.

  II. _Shelter_. How provide shelter.

 III. _Cleanliness_. Why washing unnecessary (cat's face
                            washing; aversion to getting wet).
                          Danger from dampness.
                          Need of combing and brushing;

  IV. _Enemies_. Kinds of insects; remedies.
                      Dogs; boys and men.
                        Proper treatment. Value of Society for
                          Prevention of Cruelty to Animals;
                       how to secure its aid.

Thus a definite purpose, that is simple, concrete, and close to the
learner's experience, can be valuable as a basis for selecting and
arranging subject-matter. Facts that bear no important relation to
this aim, such as the length of the cat's tail and the shape of its
ears, fall out; and those that are left, drop into a series in place
of a mere list.

_As a promise of some practical outcome of study in conduct_

A manufacturer must do more than supply himself with motive power and
manufacture a proper quality of goods; he must also provide for a
market. Again, if he makes money, he is under obligations not to let
it lie idle; if he hoards it, he is condemned as a miser. He is
responsible for turning whatever goods or money he collects to some

The student, likewise, should not be merely a collector of knowledge.
The object of study is not merely insight. As Frederick Harrison has
said, "Man's business here is to know for the sake of living, not to
live for the sake of knowing." "Religion that does not express itself
in conduct socially useful is not true religion"; and, we may add,
education that does not do the same is not true education.

It is part of one's work as a student, therefore, to plan to turn
one's knowledge to some account; to plan not alone to sell it for
money, but to _use_ it in various ways in daily life. If, instead
of this, one aims to do nothing but collect facts, no matter how
ardently, he has the spirit of a bookworm at best and stands on the
same plane as the miser. Or if, notwithstanding good intentions, he
leaves the effect of his knowledge on life mainly to accident, he is
grossly careless in regard to the chief object of study. Yet the
average student regards himself as mainly a collector of facts, a
storehouse of knowledge; and his teachers also regard him in that
light. Planning to turn knowledge to some account is not thought to be
essential to scholarship.

There are, no doubt, various reasons for this, but it is not because
an effect on life is not finally desired. The explanation seems to be
largely found in a very peculiar theory, namely, that the fewer
bearings on life a student now concerns himself with, the more he will
somehow ultimately realize; and if he aims at none in particular, he
will very likely hit most of them. Thus aimlessness, so far as
relations of study to life are concerned, is put at a premium, and
students are directly encouraged to be omnivorous absorbers without
further responsibility.

Meanwhile, sensible people are convinced of the unsoundness of this
theory. How often, after having read a book from no particular point
of view, one feels it necessary to reexamine it in order to know how
it treats some particular topic! The former reading was too defective
to meet a special need, because the very general aim caused the
attitude to be general or non-selective. How often do young people who
have been taught to have no particular aim in their reading, have no
aim at all, beyond intellectual dissipation, the momentary tickle of
the thought. Thus _all_ particular needs are in danger of being
left unsatisfied when no particular need is fixed upon as the object.
It is the growing consciousness of the great waste in such study that
has changed botany in many places into horticulture and agriculture,
chemistry into the chemistry of the kitchen, and that has caused
portions of many other studies to be approached from the human view-

This indicates the positive acceptance of specific purposes as guides
in study. They are not by any means full guarantees of an outcome of
knowledge in conduct, for they are only the plans by which the student
hopes that his knowledge will function. Since plans often fail of
accomplishment, these purposes may never be realized. But they give
promise of some outcome and form one important step in a series of
steps necessary for the fruition of knowledge.

_By whom and when such purposes should be conceived_

The aims set up by advanced scholars are necessarily an outgrowth of
their individual experience and interests. Such aims must, therefore,
vary greatly. For this reason such men must conceive their purposes
for themselves; there is no one who can do it for them.

Younger students are in much the same situation, for their aims should
also be individual to a large extent. Text-books might be of much help
if their authors attempted this task with skill. But authors seldom
attempt it at all; and, even if they do, they are under the
disadvantage of writing for great numbers of persons living in widely
different environments. Any aims that they propose must necessarily be
of a very general character. Teachers might again be of much help; but
many of them do not know how, and many more will not try. The task,
therefore, falls mainly to the student himself.

As to the time of forming in mind these aims, the experimental
scientist necessarily posits some sort of hypothesis in advance of his
experiments; the eminent men before mentioned conceive the questions
that they hope to have answered, in advance of their reading. It is
natural that one should fix an aim before doing the work that is
necessary for its accomplishment. If these aims are to furnish the
motive for close attention and the basis for the selection and
organization of facts, they certainly ought to be determined upon
early. The earlier they come, too, the greater the likelihood of some
practical outcome in conduct; for the want of such an outcome is very
often due to their postponement.

On the other hand, the setting up of desirable ends requires mental
vigor, as well as a wide and well-controlled experience. Gibbon's
"solitary walk" (p. 31) Would hardly be a pleasure walk for most young
people, even if they had his rich fund of knowledge to draw upon.
While it is desirable, therefore, to determine early upon one's
purposes, young students will often find it impossible to do this. In
such cases they will have to begin studying without such aids. They
can at least keep a sharp lookout for suitable purposes, and can
gradually fix upon them as they proceed. In general it should be
remembered that the sooner good aims are selected, the sooner their
benefits will be enjoyed.


According to custom, young people are expected to acquire knowledge
now and find its uses later. The preceding argument would reverse that
order by having them discover their wants first and then study to
satisfy them. This is the way in which man has progressed from the
beginning--outside of educational institutions--and it seems the
normal order.

To what extent shall this apply to children? If the fixing of aims is
difficult for adult students, it can be expected to be even more
difficult for children of the elementary school age. For their
experience, from which the suggestions for specific purposes must be
obtained, is narrow and their command of it slight. On the other hand,
they are expected to have done a large amount of studying before
entering the high school, much of it alone, too. And, after leaving
the elementary school, people will take it for granted that they have
already learned how to study. If, therefore, the finding of specific
purposes is an important factor in proper study, responsibility for
acquiring that ability will fall upon the elementary school.

_Do children need the help of specific aims?_

The first question to consider is, Do children seriously need the help
of such aims? They certainly do in one respect, for they resemble
their elders in being afflicted with inattention and unwillingness to
exert themselves in study. These are the offenses for which they are
most often scolded at school, and these are their chief faults when
they attempt to study alone. There is no doubt also but that the main
reason why children improve very little in oral reading during the
last three years in the elementary school is their lack of incentive
to improve. They feel no great need of enunciating distinctly and of
reading with pleasant tones loud enough to be heard by all, when all
present have the same text before them. Why should they?

Good aims make children alert, just as they do older persons. I
remember hearing a New York teacher in a private school say to her
thirteen-year-old children in composition, one spring day: "I expect
to spend my vacation at some summer resort; but I have not yet decided
what one it shall be. If you have a good place in mind, I should be
glad to have you tell me why you like it. It may influence my choice."
She was a very popular teacher, and each pupil longed to have her for
a companion during the summer. I never saw a class undertake a
composition with more eagerness. In a certain fifth-year class in
geography a contest between the boys and girls for the best collection
of articles manufactured out of flax resulted in the greatest
enthusiasm. The reading or committing to memory of stories with the
object of dramatizing them--such as _The Children's Hour_, in the
second or third grade--seldom fails to arouse lively interest.

For several years the members of the highest two classes in a certain
school have collected many of the best cartoons and witticisms. They
have also been in the habit of reading the magazines with the object
of selecting such articles as might be of special interest to their
own families at home, or to other classes in the school, or to their
classmates, often defending their selections before the class. Their
most valuable articles have been classified and catalogued for use in
the school; and their joke-books, formed out of humorous collections,
have circulated through the school. The effect of the plan in
interesting pupils in current literature has been excellent.

A certain settlement worker in New York City in charge of a club of
fourteen- to eighteen-year-old boys tried to arouse an interest in
literature, using one plan after another without success. Finally the
class undertook to read _Julius Caesar_ with the object of selecting
the best parts and acting them out in public. This plan succeeded; and
while the acting was grotesque, this purpose led to what was probably
the most earnest studying that those boys had ever done.

The value of definite aims for the conduct of the recitation is now
often discussed and much appreciated by teachers. If such aims are so
important in class, with the teacher present, they are surely not less
needed when the child is studying alone.

The worth of specific aims for children as a source of energy in
general is likewise great. It is a question whether children under
three years of age are ever lazy. But certainly within a few years
after that age--owing to the bad effect of civilization, Rousseau
might say--many of them make great progress toward laziness of both
body and mind.

The possibilities in this direction were once strikingly illustrated
in an orphan asylum in New York City. The two hundred children in this
asylum had been in the habit of marching to their meals in silence,
eating in silence, and marching out in silence. They had been trained
to the "lock step" discipline, until they were _quiet_ and _good_ to a
high degree. The old superintendent having resigned on account of age,
an experienced teacher, who was an enthusiast in education, succeeded
him in that office. Feeling depressed by the lack of life among the
children, the latter concluded, after a few weeks, to break the
routine by taking thirty of the older boys and girls to a circus. But
shortly before the appointed day one of these girls proved so
refractory that she was told that she could not be allowed to go.
To the new superintendent's astonishment, however, she did not seem
disappointed or angered; she merely remarked that she had never seen a
circus and did not care much to go anyway. Shortly afterward he fined
several of the children for misconduct. Many of them had a few dollars
of their own, received from relatives and other friends. But the fines
did not worry them. They were not in the habit of spending money,
having no occasion for it; all that they needed was food, clothing,
and shelter, and these the institution was bound to give. Then he
deprived certain unruly children of a share in the games. That again
failed to cause acute sorrow. In the great city they had little room
for play, and many had not become fond of games. It finally proved
difficult to discover anything that they cared for greatly. Their
discipline had accomplished its object, until they were usually "good"
simply because they were too dull, too wanting in ideas and interests
to be mischievous. Their energy in general was low. Here was a demand
for specific purposes without limit.

One of the first aims that the new superintendent set up, after making
this discovery, was to inculcate live interests in these children, a
capacity to enjoy the circus, a love even of money, a love of games,
of flowers, of reading, and of companionship. His means was the fixing
of definite and interesting objects to be accomplished from day to
day, and these gradually restored the children to their normal
condition. Thus all children need the help of specific aims, and some
need it sadly.

_Is it normal to expect children to learn to set up specific aims
for themselves?_

There remains the very important question, Are children themselves
capable of learning to set up such purposes? Or at least would such
attempts seem to be normal for them? This question cannot receive a
final answer at present, because children have not been sufficiently
tested in this respect. It has so long been the habit in school to
collect facts and leave their bearings on life to future accident,
that the force of habit makes it difficult to measure the
probabilities in regard to a very different procedure.

Yet there are some facts that are very encouraging. A large number of
the tasks that children undertake outside of school are self imposed,
many of these including much intellectual work. Largely as a result of
such tasks, too, they probably learn at least as much outside of
school as they learn in school, and they learn it better.

Further, when called upon in school to do this kind of thinking, they
readily respond. A teacher one day remarked to her class, "I have a
little girl friend living on the Hudson River, near Albany, who has
been ill for many weeks. It occurred to me that you might like to
write her some letters that would help her to pass the time more
pleasantly. Could you do it?" "Yes, by all means," was the response.
"Then what will you choose to write about?" said the teacher. One girl
soon inquired, "Do you think that she would like to know how I am
training my bird to sing?" Several other interesting topics were
suggested. The finding of desirable purposes is not beyond children's

Individual examples, however, can hardly furnish the best answer to
the question at present; the general nature of children must determine
it. If children are leading lives that are rich enough intellectually
and morally to furnish numerous occasions to turn their acquisitions
to account, then it would certainly be reasonable to expect them to
discover some of these occasions. If, on the other hand, their lives
are comparatively barren, it might be unnatural to make such a demand
upon them.

The feeling is rather common that human experience becomes rich only
as the adult period is reached; that childhood is comparatively barren
of needs, and valuable mainly as a period of storage of knowledge to
meet wants that will arise later. Yet is this true? By the time the
adult state is reached, one has passed through the principal kinds of
experience; the period of struggle is largely over, and the results
have registered themselves in habits. The adult is to a great extent a
bundle of habits.

The child, and the youth in the adolescent age, on the other hand, are
just going the round of experience for the first few times. They are
just forming their judgments as to the values of things about them.
Their intellectual life is abundant, as is shown by their innumerable
questions. Their temptations--such as to become angry, to fight, to
lie, to cheat, and to steal--are more numerous and probably more
severe than they will usually be later; their opportunities to please
and help others, or to offend and hinder, are without limit; and their
joys and sorrows, though of briefer duration than later, are more
numerous and often fully as acute. In other words, they are in the
midst of growth, of habit formation, both intellectually and morally.
Theirs is the time of life when, to a peculiar degree, they are
experimentally related to their environment. Why, then, should they be
taught to look past this period, to their distant future as the
harvest time for their knowledge and powers? The occasions are
abundant _now_ for turning facts and abilities to account, and it
is normal to expect them to see many of these opportunities. Proper
development requires that they be trained to look for them, instead of
looking past them.

Here is seen the need of one more reform in education. Children used
to be regarded as lacking value in themselves; their worth lay in
their promise of being men and women; and if, owing to ill health,
this promise was very doubtful, they were put aside. For education
they were given that mental pabulum that was considered valuable to
the adult; and their tastes, habits, and manners were judged from the
same viewpoint.

Very recently one radical improvement has been effected in this
program. As illustrated in the doctrine of apperception, we have grown
to respect the natures of children, even to accept their instincts,
their native tendencies, and their experiences as the proper _basis_
for their education. That is a wonderful advance. But we do not yet
regard their present experience as furnishing the _motive_ for their
education. We need to take one more step and recognize their present
lives as the field wherein the knowledge that they acquire shall
function. We do this to some extent; but we lack faith in the
abundance of their present experience, and are always impatiently
looking forward to a time when their lives will be rich.

In feeding children we have our eyes primarily on the present; food is
given them in order to be assimilated and used _now_ to satisfy
_present_ needs; that is the best way of guaranteeing health for
the future. Likewise in giving them mental and spiritual food, our
attention should be directed primarily to its present value. It should
be given with the purpose of present nourishment, of satisfying
present needs; other more distant needs will thereby be best served.

A few years ago, when I was discussing this topic with a class at
Teachers College, I happened to observe a recitation in the Horace
Mann school in which a class of children was reading _Silas Marner_.
They were frequently reproved for their unnaturally harsh voices, for
their monotones, indistinct enunciation, and poor grouping of words.
In the Speyer school, nine blocks north of this school, I had often
observed the same defects.

At about that time one of my students, interested in the early history
of New York, happened to call upon an old woman living in a shanty
midway between these two schools. She was an old inhabitant, and one
of the early roadways that the student was hunting had passed near her
house. In conversation with the woman he learned that she had had five
children, all of whom had been taken from her some years before,
within a fortnight, by scarlet fever; and that since then she had been
living alone. When he remarked that she must feel lonesome at times,
tears came to her eyes, and she replied, "Sometimes." As he was
leaving she thanked him for his call and remarked that she seldom had
any visitors; she added that, if some one would drop in now and then,
either to talk or to read to her, she would greatly appreciate it; her
eyes had so failed that she could no longer read for herself.

Here was an excellent chance to improve the children's reading by
enabling them to see that the better their reading the more pleasure
could they give to those about them. This seems typical of the present
relation between the school and its environing world. While the two
need each other sadly, the school is isolated somewhat like the old-
time monastery. The fixing of specific aims for study can aid
materially in establishing the normal relation, and children can
certainly contribute to this end by discovering some of these purposes
themselves. That is one of the things that they should _learn_ to do.


_1. Elimination of subject-matter that has little bearing on

The elimination from the curriculum of such subject-matter as has no
probable bearing on ordinary mortals is one important step to take in
giving children definite aims in their study. There is much of this
matter having little excuse for existence beyond the fact that it
"exercises the mind"; for example: in arithmetic, the finding of the
Greatest Common Divisor as a separate topic, the tables for
Apothecaries' weight and Troy measure, Complex and Compound
Fractions;[Footnote: For a more complete list of such topics, see
Teachers College Record, _Mathematics in the Elementary School_,
March, 1903, by David Eugene Smith and F. M. McMurry.] in geography,
the location of many unimportant capes, bays, capitals and other
towns, rivers and boundaries; in nature study, many classifications,
the detailed study of leaves, and the study of many uncommon wild
plants. The teaching of facts that cannot function in the lives of
pupils directly encourages the mere collecting habit, and thus tends
to defeat the purpose here proposed. Not that we do not wish children
to collect facts; but while acquiring them we want children to carry
the responsibility of discovering ways of turning them to account, and
mere collecting tends to dull this sense of responsibility.

_2. The example to be set by the teacher_

By her own method of instruction the teacher can set an example of
what she desires from her pupils in the way of concrete aims. For
instance: (a) during recitation she can occasionally suggest
opportunities for the application of knowledge and ability. "This is a
story that you might tell to other children," she might say; or, "Here
is something that you might dramatize." "You might talk with your
father or mother about this." "Could you read this aloud to your
family?" Again, (b) in the assignment of lessons she might set a
definite problem that would bring the school work into direct touch
with the outside world. In fine art, instead of having children make
designs for borders, without any particular use for the design, she
might suggest, "Find some object or wall surface that needs a border,
and see if you can design one that will be suitable." As a task in
arithmetic for a fifth-year class in a small town, she might assign
the problem, "To find out as accurately as possible whether or not it
pays to keep a cow." Finally, (c) as part of an examination, she can
ask the class to recall purposes that they have kept in mind in the
study of certain topics. By such means the teacher can make clear to a
class what is meant by interesting or useful aims of study, and also
impress them with the fact that she feels the need of studying under
the guidance of such aims.

_3. The responsibility the children should bear._

The teacher need not do a great amount of such work for her class. The
children should _learn to do it themselves_, and they will not acquire
the ability mainly by having some one else do it for them.

Therefore, after the children have come to understand the requirement
fairly well, the teacher might occasionally assign a lesson by
specifying only the quantity, as such and such pages, or such and such
topics, in the geography or history, with the understanding that the
class shall state in the next recitation one or more aims for the
lesson; for example, if it is the geography of Russia, How it happens
that we hear so often of famines in Russia, while we do not hear of
them in other parts of Europe; or, if it is the history of Columbus,
For what characteristic is Columbus to be most admired? Again, In what
ways has his discovery of America proved of benefit to the world? The
finding of such problems will then be a part of the study necessary in
mastering the lesson.

Likewise, during the recitation and without any hint from the teacher,
the children should show that they are carrying the responsibility of
establishing relations of the subject-matter with life, by mentioning
further bearings, or possible uses, that they discover.

Review lessons furnish excellent occasions for study of this kind. It
is narrow to review lessons only from the point of view of the author.
His view-point should be reviewed often enough to become well fixed,
but there should be other view-points taken also.

John Fiske has admirably presented the history of the period
immediately following the Revolution. The title of his book, _The
Critical Period of American History_, makes us curious from the
beginning to know how the period was so critical. This is a fine
example of a specific aim governing a whole book. But other aims in
review might be, Do we owe as much to Washington during this period as
during the war just preceding? Or were other men equally or more
prominent? How was the establishment of a firm Union made especially
difficult by the want of certain modern inventions? The pupils
themselves should develop the power to suggest such questions.

_4. The sources to which children should look for suggestions_

The teacher can teach the children _where to look for suggestions_ in
their search for specific purposes. During meals, three times a day,
interesting topics of conversation are welcome; indeed, the dearth of
conversation at such times, owing to lack of "something to say," is
often depressing. There is often need of something to unite the family
of evenings, such as a magazine article read aloud, or a good
narrative, or a discussion of some timely topic. There are social
gatherings where the people "don't know what to do"; there are
recesses at school where there is the same difficulty; there are
neighbors, brothers and sisters, and other friends who are more
than ready to be entertained, or instructed, or helped. Yet children
often dramatize stories at school, without ever thinking of doing the
same for the entertainment of their family at home. They read good
stories without expecting to tell them to any one. They collect good
ideas about judging pictures, without planning to beautify their homes
through them. Thus the children can be made conscious that there are
_wants_ on all sides of them, and by some study of their environment
they can find many aims that will give purpose to their school work.
Again, by a review of their past studies, their reading, and their
experience of various kinds, they can be reminded of objects that they
are desirous of accomplishing. It is, perhaps, needless to say that
the teacher herself must likewise make a careful study of the home,
street, and school life of her pupils, of their study and reading, if
she is to guide them most effectually in their own search for
desirable aims.

_5. Stocking up with specific aims in advance_

Finally, the teacher can lead her pupils to stock up with specific
aims _even in advance of their immediate needs_. A teacher who visits
another school with the desire of getting helpful suggestions would
better write down beforehand the various things that she wishes to
see. She can afford to spend considerable time and energy upon such
a list of points. Otherwise, she is likely to overlook half of the
things she was anxious to inquire about.

Likewise, children can be taught to jot down in a notebook various
problems that they hope to solve, various wants observed in their
environment that they may help to satisfy. Children who are much
interested in reading, sometimes without outside suggestion make lists
of good books that they have heard of and hope to read. And as they
read some, they add others to their list. Keeping this list in mind,
they are on the lookout for any of these books, and improve the
opportunity to read one of them whenever it offers. A similar habit in
regard to things one would like to know and do can be cultivated, so
that one will have a rich stock of aims on hand in advance, and these
will help greatly to give purpose to the work later required in the

_6. The importance of moderation in demands made upon children._

In conclusion, it may be of importance to add that this kind of
instruction can be easily overdone, and it is better to proceed too
slowly than too rapidly. It is a healthy and permanent development
that is wanted, and the teacher should rest satisfied if it is slow.
It is by no means feasible to attempt to subordinate all study to
specific aims; we cannot see our way to accomplish that now. But we
can do something in that direction. Only occasional attempts with the
younger children will be in place; more conscious efforts will be
fitting among older pupils. By the time the elementary school is
finished, a fair degree of success in discovering specific aims can be

Yet, even if little more than a willingness to _take time to try_
is established, the gain will be appreciable. When children become
interested in a topic, they are impatient to "go on" and "to keep
going on." This continual hurrying forward crowds out reflection. If
they learn no more than to pause now and then in order to find some
bearings on life, and thus do some independent _thinking_, they are
paving the way for the invaluable habit of reflection.



_The question here at issue_

In the preceding chapter the importance of studying under the
influence of specific purposes was urged. These are such purposes as
the student really desires to accomplish by the study of text or of
other matter placed before him. Since they are not usually included in
such matter, but must be conceived by the student himself, they
constitute a very important kind of supplement to whatever statements
may be offered for study. The questions now arise, Are other kinds of
supplementing also generally necessary? If so, what is their nature?
Should they be prominent, or only a minor part of study? And is there
any explanation of the fact that authors are not able to express
themselves more fully and plainly?

_Answers to these questions--1. As suggested by Bible study._

For answers to these questions, turn first to Bible study. Take for
instance a minister's treatment of a Bible text. Selecting a verse or
two as his Answers to theme for a sermon, he recalls the conditions
that called forth the words; builds the concrete picture by the
addition of reasonable detail; makes comparisons with corresponding
views or customs of the present time; states and answers queries that
may arise; calls attention to the peculiar beauty or force of certain
expressions; draws inferences or corollaries suggested in the text;
and, finally, interprets the thought or draws the practical lessons.
The words in his text may number less than a dozen, while those that
he utters reach thousands; and the thoughts that he expresses may be a
hundred times the number directly visible in the text.

Leaving the minister, take the layman's study of the parable of the
Prodigal Son. This is the story as related in Luke 15:11-32:

11. And he said, A certain man had two sons:

12. And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the
portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his

13. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and
took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance
with riotous living.

14. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that
land; and he began to be in want.

15. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and
he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the
swine did eat; and no man gave unto him

17. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of
my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I
have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19. And am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy
hired servants.

20. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great
way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on
his neck, and kissed him.

21. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven,
and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe,
and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

23. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and
be merry.

24. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is
found. And they began to be merry.

25. Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew nigh
to the house, he heard music and dancing.

26. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things

27. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath
killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28. And he was angry, and would not go in; therefore came his father
out, and intreated him.

29. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I
serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and
yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my

30. But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy
living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

81. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I
have is thine.

32. It was meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy
brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

How simple the story! Even a child can tell it after very few
readings, and one could soon learn the words by heart. Is one then
through with it? Or has the study then hardly begun?

Note some of the questions that need to be considered:--

1. What various thoughts probably induced the young man to leave home?

2. What pictures of his former life does he call to mind when
starving? Why did he hesitate about returning?

3. What were his thoughts and actions as he approached his father;
those also of his father?

4. What indication of the father's character is given in the fact that
he saw his son while yet "a great way off"?

5. Which is perhaps the most interesting scene? Which is least

6. How would the older son have had the father act?

7. Did the father argue at length with the older son? Was it in place
to argue much about such a matter?

8. Describe the character of the elder son. Which of the two is the

9. Is the father shown to be at fault in any respect in the training
of his sons? If so, how?

10. How do people about us often resemble the elder son?

11. Is this story told as a warning or as a comfort? How?

These are only a few of the many questions that might well be
considered. Indeed, whole books could be, and probably have been,
written upon this one parable. Yet neither such questions nor their
answers are included in the text. It seems strange that almost none of
the great thoughts that should be gathered from the story are
themselves included with the narrative. But the same is true in regard
to other parts of the Bible. The conversation between Jesus and the
Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) is, perhaps, the greatest
conversation that was ever held. Yet one must discover this fact
"between the lines"; there is no such statement included in the

Evidently both to the minister and to the layman the Bible contains
only the raw materials for thought. It must be supplemented without
limit, if one is to comprehend it and to be nourished by it properly.

_2. As suggested by the study of other literature_

Does this same hold with regard to other literature? For answer,
recall to what extent Shakespeare's dramas are "talked over" in class,
both in high schools and colleges. But as a type--somewhat extreme,
perhaps--take Browning's


That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
"Fra Pandolf" by design, for never read
Stranger like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 't was not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek; perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, "Her mantle laps
Over my lady's wrist too much," or "Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart--how shall I say--too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 't was all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace--all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,--good! but thanked
Somehow--I know not how--as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech--(which I have not)--to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark"--and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
--E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

How much the word last in the title of this poem suggests! Note how
many, and how different, are the topics in the last dozen lines. Yet
there is no paragraphing throughout. The page should show things as
they exist in the Duke's mind, and he runs from one thought to another
as if they were all on the same plane, and closely related.

Was there ever a more vain, heartless, haughty, selfish, bartering
gentleman-wretch? Note how single short sentences even surprise one by
the extent to which they reveal character. Whole volumes are included
between sentences. One can scarcely read the poem through rapidly; for
it seems necessary to pause here and there to reflect upon and
interject statements.

There is no doubt about the need of extensive supplementing in the
case of adult literature. Is that true, however, of literature for
children? Is not this, on account of the immaturity of children,
necessarily so written as to make such supplementing unnecessary?
For a test let us examine Longfellow's The Children's Hour, which is
so popular with seven- and eight-year-old boys and girls.


Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes,
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old moustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon,
In the round tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, for ever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And molder in dust away!

1. How would we plan to dramatize this poem? In answering this
question, we must consider how many persons are needed, what
arrangement of rooms and doors, etc., will be fitting; are the last
three stanzas to be spoken? etc.

2. It seems that here is a family in which an hour is set aside for
play. What kind of home must that be?

3. Was this the custom each day? Or did it happen only once?

4. Does the father seem to enjoy it? Or was it rather an unpleasant
time for him?

5. Is there any proof that these were especially attractive children?
("Voices soft and sweet.")

6. Which is the best part of the last three stanzas, in which he tells
how much he loves them? (Meaning of "for ever and a day.")

7. Do you know any other families that have a time set apart each day
for playing together? Why are there not more?

8. Does such an arrangement depend on the parents wholly? Or could the
children help much to bring it about? How?

9. Have you heard the story about the Bishop of Bingen in his Mouse-
Tower on the Rhine River?

10. Meaning of strange words may be explained in various ways, perhaps
some of them scarcely explained at all.

These are some of the questions that could well be considered in this
poem. It is true that this selection, like most adult literature, is
capable of being enjoyed without much addition. But it is not mere
enjoyment that is wanted. We are discussing what study is necessary in
order to get the full profit. In the case of Hawthorne's _Wonder-Book_
and _Tanglewood Tales_, numerous questions and suggestions need
likewise to be interjected. One of the best books for five- to eight-
year-old children on the life of Christ bears the title _Jesus the
Carpenter of Nazareth_. It is an illustrated volume of five hundred
pages, which makes it clear that the original Bible text has been
greatly supplemented. Yet it is a pity to read even this book without
frequent pausing for additional detail.

Thus literature, including even that for young children, fails to show
on the surface all that the reader is expected to see. Much of it
states only a very small part of this. A piece of literature resembles
a painting in this respect. Corot's well-known painting, "Dance of the
Wood Nymphs," presents only a few objects, including a landscape with
some trees and some dancing women. Yet people love to sit and look at
it, perhaps to examine its detail and enjoy its author's skill, but
also to recall countless memories of the past, of beautiful woods and
pastures, of happy parties, of joys, hopes, and resolves, and
possibly, too, to renew resolves for the future. The very simple scene
is thus a source of inspiration, a stimulus to think or study. A poem
accomplishes the same thing.

_3. As stated by Ruskin_

A warning of the amount of hard work that the student of literature
must expect is given by Ruskin in the following forcible words: "And
be sure, also, if the author is worth anything, that you will not get
at his meaning all at once,--nay, that at his whole meaning you will
not for a long time arrive in any wise. Not that he does not say what
he means, and in strong words, too; but he cannot say it all, and what
is more strange, will not, but in a hidden way, and in parables, in
order that he may be sure you want it. I cannot quite see the reason
of this, nor analyze the cruel reticence in the breasts of wise men
which makes them always hide their deeper thought.

"They do not give it you by way of help, but of reward, and will make
themselves sure that you deserve it, before they allow you to reach

"But it is the same with the physical type of wisdom, gold. There
seems, to you and me, no reason why the electric forces of the earth
should not carry whatever there is of gold within it at once to the
mountain tops, so that kings and people might know that all the gold
they could get was there, and without any trouble of digging, or
anxiety, or chance, or waste of time, cut it away, and coin as much as
they needed. But Nature does not manage it so. She puts it in little
fissures in the earth, nobody knows where. You may dig long and find
none; you must dig painfully to find any.

"And it is just the same with men's best wisdom. When you come to a
good book, you must ask yourself, 'Am I inclined to work as an
Australian miner would? Are my pickaxes and shovels in good order, and
am I in good trim myself, my sleeves well up to the elbow, and my
breath good, and my temper?' And keeping the figure a little longer...
the metal you are in search of being the author's mind or meaning, his
words are as the rock which you have to crush and smelt in order to
get at it. And your pickaxes are your own care, wit, and learning;
your smelting furnace is your own thoughtful soul. Do not hope to get
at any good author's meaning without those tools, and that fire; often
you will need sharpest, finest chiseling and patientest fussing before
you can gather one grain of the metal."[Footnote: _Sesame and Lilies_]

_4. As suggested by an examination of text-books_

When we turn from literature to the text-books used in schools and
colleges, we find the need of supplementing greatly increased. Writers
of literature are at liberty to choose any topic they please, and to
treat it as fully as they will. But writers of text-books are free in
neither of these respects. Their subjects are determined for them; it
is the history, for example, of a given period, the grammar of the
English language, the geography of the earth. And these must be
presented briefly enough to be covered by classes within a prescribed
time. For these reasons text-books contain far less detail than
literature, and in that sense are much more condensed. They are only
the outlines of subjects, as their titles often directly acknowledge.
Green's _History of England_, for instance, which has been extensively
used as a college text, barely touches many topics that are treated at
great length elsewhere. It is natural, therefore, that in our more
advanced schools the word text in connection with such books is used
in much the same sense as in connection with the Bible; a text is that
which merely introduces topics by giving the bare outline of facts, or
very condensed statements; it must be supplemented extensively, if the
facts or thoughts are to be appreciated.

How about the texts used in the elementary school? Those used in the
highest two grades need, perhaps, somewhat more supplementing than
those in the high school. But in the middle grades this need is still
greater. In the more prominent studies calling for text-books, such as
history, geography, and English language or grammar, nearly the same
topics are treated as in the higher grades, and in substantially the
same manner. But since the younger children are not expected to take
as long lessons,--and perhaps, too, because they cannot carry as large
books,--their texts are made briefer. This is mainly accomplished by
leaving out much of the detail that is necessary to make the facts
clear and interesting. Consequently, supplementing is an especially
important factor of study in these grades. In general, the briefer the
text, the more "filling in" is needed.

As an illustration, take the following extract from the first page of
McMaster's _Child's History of the United States_, often used with
ten-year-old pupils.

Four hundred and fifty years ago the people of western Europe were
getting silks, perfumes, shawls, ivory, spices, and jewels from
southeastern Asia, then called the Indies. But the Turks were
conquering the countries across which these goods were carried, and it
seemed so likely that the trade would be stopped, that the merchants
began to ask if somebody could not find a new way to the Indies.

The king of Portugal thought he could, and began sending his sailors
in search of a way around Africa, which extended southward, nobody
knew how far. Year after year his ships sailed down the west coast,
the last captain going further south than the one before him, till one
of them at last reached the southern end of the continent and entered
the Indian Ocean.

Observe a few of the thoughts "between the lines" that need to be

1. Six things are here mentioned as brought from the East Indies. It
seems odd that some of these should receive mention as among the most
important imports. Which are they? Could any of them have been more
important then than now? Why?

2. What were the routes of travel, by land, to the Indies? (Map.)

3. Where did the Turks live; and what reasons had they for preventing
this trade?

4. Why could not the first Portuguese captain sail directly to the
southern end of Africa?

Again, take the topic _desert_ in geography. The texts usually define
a desert as a sandy waste, often a plain, that receives too little
rain to support much vegetable or animal life. Pictures are given
showing the character of the plants, and perhaps the appearance
of such a region. Beyond that little is usually attempted. In the
larger books the danger from sand storms and some other things are
included. Such treatment needs to be supplemented by numerous
questions, such as the following:--

1. What animals that are common here are seldom found there, or not at
all? (Horses, cows, etc., also birds, flies, bugs, etc.)

2. What plants that are common here are not found there? (Trees,
flowers, weeds, etc.)

3. Is the weather particularly enjoyable there, or not? Is it
desirable to have sunshine all the time?

4. What about noises of various kinds? (Silence so oppressive to some
people that it becomes intolerable.)

5. What would be some of the pleasures of a walk in the desert?
(Coloring, change of seasons, trees along streams, appearance of any

6. What about the effect of strong winds on the sand?

7. Imagining that some one has just crossed a desert, what dangers do
you think he has encountered, and how may he have escaped from them?

_The extent to which the supplementing should be carried_

From the preceding discussion it is clear not only that no important
topic is ever completely presented, but also that there is scarcely
any limit to the extent to which it may be supplemented. Men get new
thoughts from the same Bible texts year after year, and even century
after century. How far, then, should the supplementing be carried?

The maximum limit cannot be fixed, and there is no need of attempting
it. But there is great need of knowing and keeping in mind the minimum
limit; for in the pressure to hurry forward there is grave danger that
even this limit will not be reached.

What is this minimum limit? Briefly stated, it is this: There should
be enough supplementing to render the thought really nourishing,
_quickening_, to the learner. In the case of literature that will
involve some supplementing; and in the case of ordinary text-books it
will require a good deal more.

Is this standard met when the child understands and can reproduce in
substance the definition of desert? Far from it! That definition is as
dry and barren as the desert itself; it tends to deaden rather than
quicken. The pupil must go far beyond the mere cold understanding and
reproduction of a topic. He must see the thing talked about, as though
in its presence; he must not only see this vividly, but he must enter
into its spirit, or _feel_ it; he must experience or live it.
Otherwise the desired effect is wanting. This standard furnishes the
reason for such detailed questions as are suggested above. The
frequency with which stirring events, grand scenery, and great
thoughts are talked about in class with fair understanding, but
without the least excitement, is a measure of the failure of the so-
called better instruction to come up to this standard. No really good
instruction, any more than good story books, will leave one cold
toward the theme in hand.

_Reasons why authors fail to express their thought more

It must be confessed that this standard calls for a large amount of
supplementing. There are meanings of words and phrases to be studied,
references to be looked up, details to be filled in for the sake of
vivid pictures, illustrations to be furnished out of one's own
experience, inferences or corollaries to be drawn, questions to be
raised and answered, and finally the bearings on life to be traced. It
might seem that authors could do their work better, and thereby
relieve their readers of work.

Yet these omissions are not to be ascribed to the evil natures of
authors, nor to the superabundance of their thought, alone. Readers
would be dissatisfied if all this work were done for them. Any one has
observed that small children are disappointed if they are not allowed
to perform necessary little tasks that lie within their power. Also,
they enjoy those toys most that are not too complete, and that,
therefore, leave some work for their own imaginations. This quality of
childhood is characteristic of youth and of adults. An author would
not be forgiven if he stopped in the midst of his discourse to explain
a reference. Eminent writers, like Longfellow, for example, are even
blamed for attaching the morals to their productions; and terseness is
one of the qualities of literature that is most praised. In other
words, older people, like children, love activity. Although they at
times hate to work, they do not want authors to presuppose that they
are lazy or helpless; and they resent too much assistance. Since,
therefore, the many omissions in the presentation of thought are in
accordance with our own desires, we would do well to undertake the
necessary supplementing without complaint.


There are several facts indicating that children have the ability to
undertake this kind of studying.

_Reasons for assuming that children have this kind of ability
1. Their vivid imaginations_

One of the chief powers necessary is a vivid imagination by which
concrete situations can be clearly pictured, and children possess such
power to an unusual degree. They see so vividly that they become
frightened by the products of their own imaginations. Their dolls are
so truly personified that mishaps to them easily cause tears, and
their mistreatment by strangers is resented as though personal. Adults
hardly equal them in this imaginative quality.

_2. Their ability to imitate and think, as shown in conversation_

When children are left alone together they do not lack things to do
and say. Their minds are active enough to entertain one another as
well as adults do, and not seldom better. In fact, if they remain
natural, they are often more interesting to adults than other adults
are. They reach even profound thoughts with peculiar directness. When
I was attempting, one day, to throw a toy boomerang for some children,
one of the little girls, observing my want of success, remarked, "I
saw a picture of a man throwing one of these things. He stood at the
door of his house, and the boomerang went clear around the house. But
I suppose that people sometimes make pictures of things that they
can't do; don't they?"

_3. The success of development instruction_

The method of teaching called _development instruction_ is based on
the desire and ability of children to contribute ideas. That
instruction could not succeed as it has succeeded, if children did not
readily conceive thoughts of their own. Not only do they answer
questions that teachers put in such teaching, but they also propose
many of the questions that should be considered. That method
flourishes even in the kindergarten. In the kindergarten circle
children often interrupt the leader with germane remarks; and
sometimes it is difficult even to suppress such self-expression. One
reason the kindergartner tells her stories, rather than reads them, is
that she may have her eyes on the children and thus take advantage of
their desire to make contributions of thought. The same tendency is
shown in the home, when children want to "talk over" what their
parents or other persons read to them. They fail to respond in this
way only when they are afraid, or when they have attended school long
enough to have this tendency partly suppressed.

_4. The character of children's literature_

Finally, the fact that children's literature, like that for adults,
presupposes much supplementing, is strong reason for presupposing that
ability on their part. Any moral lessons that belong to fairy tales
must be reached by the children's own thought; the same usually
applies to fables also. Hawthorne understood the child mind as few
persons have. Yet it is astonishing how much ability to supplement
seems to have been expected by him. It would be surprising if such
experts were mistaken in their estimate of children.


_1. Importance of using text-books_

Teachers can make use of text-books at least enough to give much
practice in supplementing text. Text-books are so uncommon in some
schools that one might conclude that they had gone out of fashion
among good teachers. Yet there is certainly nothing in modern
educational theory that advises the neglect of books. Some teachers
may have imagined that development instruction, to which reference has
just been made, leans that way. But development instruction is of
importance rather in the first presentation of some topics. After a
topic has been thus developed, it can well be reviewed and further
studied in connection with books. Many teachers are neglecting to use
texts both to their own detriment and to the serious disadvantage of
their pupils.

_2. Kind of text to be preferred_

Teachers who have liberty in choosing their text-books should select
those that contain abundant detail. That means a thick book, to be
sure; and many teachers are afraid of such books on the ground that
they mean long lessons. A thick book may be a poor text; but a thin
one is almost bound to be. The reason is that books are usually made
thin at the expense of detail; and detail is necessary in order to
establish the relations between facts, by which the story form can be
secured and a subject be made interesting. Without plenty of detail
the facts have to be run together, or listed, merely as so many things
that are true; they then form only a skeleton, with all the
repulsiveness of a skeleton. Such a barren text is barren of
suggestions to children for supplementing, because the ideas are too
far apart to indicate what ought to fit in between.

The understanding ought to be more common that long lessons are by no
means synonymous with hard lessons. The hardest lessons to master are
those brief, colorless presentations that fail to stimulate one to see
vividly and to think. Many a child who carries a geography text about
with him learns most of his geography from his geographical readers,
simply because the writer does not squeeze all the juice out of what
he has to say in order to save space. A child can often master five
pages in such a book more easily than he can one from the ordinary
geography, and he will remember it longer.

_3. Character of the questions to be put_

Whatever the text chosen, the recitation should be so conducted that
the emphasis will fall on reflection rather than on mere reproduction.
To this end one should avoid putting mainly memory questions, such as,
Who was it--? When was it--? Why was it--? What is said about--? Even
the usual request, "Close the books," at the beginning of the
recitation can often be omitted to advantage. Why should not the text-
book in history and geography lie open in class, just as that in
literature, if _thinking_ is the principal object?

Questions that require supplementing can be proposed by both teacher
and pupils. Now and then some topic can be assigned for review, with
the understanding that the class, instead of reproducing the facts,
shall occupy the time in "talking them over." The teacher can then
listen, or act as critic. It is a harsh commentary on the quality of
instruction if a lesson on Italy, or on a presidential administration,
or on a story, suggests no interesting conversation to a class.

Occasionally, as one feature of a lesson, a class might propose new
points of view for the review of some subject. For example, if the
Western states have been studied in geography, some of the various
ways in which they are of interest to man might be indicated by
questions, thus: What about the Indians in that region? What pleasure
might a sportsman expect there? What sections would be of most
interest to the sight-seer? How is the United States Government
reclaiming the arid lands, and in what sections? What classes of
invalids resort to the West, and to what parts? How do the fruits
raised there compare with those further east in quality and
appearance? How is farming differently conducted there? In what
respects, if any, is the West more promising than the East to a young
man starting in life?

These are such questions about the West as large classes of
individuals must put to themselves in practical life; they are, then,
fair questions for the pupil in school to put to himself and to
answer. By thus considering the various phases of human interest in a
subject, children can get many suggestions for supplementing the text.

_4. Different types of reproduction_

The habit of reproducing thought in different ways will also throw
different lights on the subject-matter, and thus offer many
supplementary ideas. For example, dramatizing is valuable in this way.
The description, in the first person, of one's experiences in crossing
the desert is an illustration. I once visited a Sunday-school class
that was studying the life of John Paton, the noted missionary to the
New Hebrides Islands. The text stated that one of the cannibal chiefs
had been converted, and had asked permission to preach on Sunday to
the other savages. This permission was granted; but the text did not
reproduce the sermon. Thereupon several members of the class
undertook, as a part of the next Sunday's lesson, to deliver such a
sermon as they thought the savage might have given. Two of the boys
brought hatchets on that Sunday to represent tomahawks, which they
used as aids in making gestures, and their five-minute speeches showed
a careful study of the whole situation. Likewise the experiences of
Columbus might be dramatized, as, when asking for help from the king,
or when reasoning with the wise men of Spain, or when conversing with
his sailors on his first voyage to America.[Footnote: See the story of
Columbus in Stevenson's _Children's Classics in Dramatic Form_, A
Reader for the Fourth Grade.]

Additional suggestions will often be obtained by inquiring, "What part
of this lesson, if any, would you like to represent by drawings? Or by
paintings? Or by constructive work? Also, How would you do it?"

_5. The danger of the three R's and spelling to habits of reflection_

Much of what has been said about supplementing ideas finds only slight
application to beginning reading, writing, spelling, and number work.
The reason is that these subjects, aiming so largely at mastery of
symbols, call for memory and skill rather than reflection. For this
very reason these subjects are in many ways dangerous to proper habits
of study, and the teacher needs to be on her guard against their bad
influence. They are so prominent during the first few years of school
that children may form their idea of study from them alone, which they
may retain and carry over to other branches. To avoid this danger,
other subjects, such as literature and nature study, deserve prominent
places in the curriculum from the beginning, and special care should
be exercised to treat them in such a way that this easy kind of
reflection is strongly encouraged.



_A. The different values of facts, and their grouping into "points"_

_Extent to which teachers treat facts as equal in value_

In several branches of knowledge in the primary school it is customary
for teachers to attach practically the same importance to different
facts. This is the case, for instance, in spelling, where a mistake
counts the same, no matter what word be misspelled. It is largely the
case in writing. In beginning reading one word is treated as equal in
value to any other, since in any review list every one is required. In
beginning arithmetic this equality of values is emphasized by
insistence upon the complete mastery of every one of the combinations
in the four fundamental operations. Throughout arithmetic, moreover,
failure to solve any problem is the same as the failure to solve any
other, judged in the light of the marking systems in use.

The same tendency is less marked, but still evident, in many other
subjects, some of them more advanced. In geography, teachers seldom
recognize any inequality of value in the map questions, even though a
question on the general directions of the principal mountain systems
in North America be followed by a request to locate Iceland. The
facts, too, are very often strung along in the text in such a manner
that it is next to impossible to distinguish values. Here is an
example from a well-known text: "Worcester is a great railroad center,
and is noted for the manufacture of engines and machinery. At
Cambridge is located Harvard University, the oldest and one of the
largest in the country. Pall River, Lowell, and New Bedford are the
great centers of cotton manufacture; Lawrence, of both cotton and
wool; Lynn, Brockton, and Haverhill make millions of boots and shoes;
and at Springfield is a United States arsenal, where firearms are
made. Holyoke has large paper mills. Gloucester is a great fishing
port. Salem has large tanneries." How does this differ from a spelling
list, so far as equality of values is concerned?

In nature study all have witnessed the typical lesson where some
object, such as a flowering twig, for example, is placed in the hands
of every pupil and each one is requested to tell something that he
sees. Anything that is offered is gratefully accepted. While this
particular kind of study is fortunately disappearing, the common
tendency to regard all facts alike is still clearly shown in the case
of the topic, cat, discussed on page 40.

In literature, failures are very often condemned alike, whether they
pertain to the meanings of words, of sentences, of references, or of
whole chapters.

Until very recently at least, even in universities, it has been common
to assign lessons in history textbooks by pages, and to require that
they be recited in the order of the text. The teacher, or professor
even, in such cases has shown admirable ability to place the burden of
the work upon the students by assigning to himself the single onerous
task of announcing who shall "begin" and who shall "go on." What
recognition is there of varying values of facts in such teaching?

_The effect of such teaching on method of study_

Not all of such instruction is avoidable or even undesirable; but it
is so common that it has a very important effect on method of study.

So long as facts are treated as approximately equal in worth, the
learner is bound to picture the field of knowledge as a comparatively
level plain composed of a vast aggregation of independent bits. In
spelling, writing, and beginning reading it is so many hundreds or
thousands of words; in beginning arithmetic it is the various
combinations in the four fundamental operations; in geography it is a
long list of statements; in history it is an endless lot of facts as
they happen to come on the page; in literature it is sentence after

One can get possession of this field, not by taking the strategic
positions,--for under the assumption of equality there are none,--but
rather by advancing over it slowly, mastering one bit at a time. Thus
the words in beginning reading, writing, and spelling are learned and
reproduced in all orders, proving them to be independent little
entities. In geography and history, when the facts are not wormed out
of the pupil by questions, he sees the page before him by his mind's
eye,--a fact frequently revealed by the movement of his eyes while
reciting,--and attempts to recall each paragraph or statement in its
order. In literature he masters his difficulties sentence by sentence,
a method most clearly shown in the case of our greatest classic, the
Bible, which is almost universally studied and quoted by verses.

Thus the _unit of progress_ in study is made the single fact; the
whole of any subject becomes the sum of its details; and a subject has
been supposedly mastered when all these bits have been learned. This
might well be called the method of study by driblets. It is probably
safe to say that a majority of the young people in the United States,
including college students, study largely in this way.

While this method of study is bad in numerous ways, there are three of
its faults in particular which need to be considered here.

_Respects in which this method of study is wrong
1. Facts, as a rule, vary greatly in value_

In the first place, facts vary indefinitely in value. In parts of a
few subjects they do have practically the same worth, which is, no
doubt, a source of much misconception about proper methods of study.
In spelling, for instance, _which_ is probably as important a word as
_when_, and _sea_ as important as _flood_. In a list of three hundred
carefully selected words for spelling for third-year pupils, any one
word might properly be regarded as equal to any other in worth. This
may be said also in regard to a list for writing. Much the same is
true in regard to a possible list of four hundred words for reading in
the first year of school. In arithmetic one would scarcely assert that
4X7 was more or less important than 9X8, or 8/2, or 6-3, or 4+2. In
other words, the various combinations in the four fundamental
operations are, again, all of them essential to every person's
knowledge, and therefore stand on the same plane of worth.

To some extent, therefore, the three R's and spelling are exceptions
to an important general rule. Yet even in spelling and beginning
reading not all words by any means have the same value. Children in
the third year of school who are reading Whittier's _Barefoot Boy_
ought to be able to recognize and spell the word _robin;_ perhaps,
also, _woodchuck_ and _tortoise;_ but _eschewing_ is not a part of
their vocabulary and will not soon be, and probably the less said
about that word by the teacher the better.

The moment we turn to other subjects, facts are found to vary almost
infinitely in value, just as metals do. Judged by the space they
occupy, they may appear to be equally important; but they are not to
be judged in this way, any more than men are. According to their
nature, thoughts or statements are large and small, or broad and
narrow, or far-reaching and insignificant. A general of an army may be
of more consequence to the welfare of a nation than a thousand common
soldiers; so one idea like that of evolution may be worth a full ten
thousand like the fact that "our neighbor's cat kittened yesterday."

_2. They are dependent upon one another for their worth_

In the second place, facts can by no means be regarded as independent.
As before, to be sure, the three R's and spelling afford some
exception to this rule. In spelling, writing, and beginning reading it
is important that any one of a large number of words be recognized or
reproduced at any time, without reference to any others. All of these,
together with the combinations in the fundamental operations in
arithmetic, are often called for singly, and they must, therefore, be
isolated from any possible series into which they might fall, and
mastered separately.

Aside from these subjects, facts are generally dependent upon their
relations to one another for their value. Taken alone, they are
ineffective fragments of knowledge, just as a common soldier or an
officer in an army is ineffective in battle without definite relations
to a multitude of other men.

If the first sentences on twenty successive pages in a book were
brought together, they would tell no story. They would be mere
scattered fractions of thoughts, lacking that relation to one another
that would give them significance and make them a unit. Twenty closely
related sentences might, however, express a very valuable thought.

James Anthony Froude, impressed with this truth and at the same time
recalling the prevalent tendency to ignore it, declares: "Detached
facts on miscellaneous subjects, as they are taught at a modern
school, are like separate letters of endless alphabets. You may load
the mechanical memory with them, till it becomes a marvel of
retentiveness. Your young prodigy may amaze examiners and delight
inspectors. His achievements may be emblazoned in blue books, and
furnish matter for flattering reports on the excellence of our
educational system. And all this while you have been feeding him with
chips of granite. But arrange your letters into words, and each word
becomes a thought, a symbol waking in the mind an image of a real
thing. Group your words into sentences, and thought is married to
thought, and the chips of granite become soft bread, wholesome,
nutritious, and invigorating." [Footnote: James Anthony Froude,
_Handwork before Headwork._]

A very simple illustration is found in the study of the dates for the
entrance of our states into the Union. Taken one at a time, the list
is dead. But interest is awakened the moment one discovers that for a
long period each Northern state was matched by one in the South, so
that they entered in pairs.

_3. The sum of the details does not equal the whole._

Finally, the whole of a subject is not merely the sum of its little
facts. You may study each day's history lesson faithfully, and may
retain everything in memory till the book is "finished," and still not
know the main things in the book. You may understand and memorize each
verse of a chapter in the Bible until you can almost reproduce the
chapter in your sleep, and still fail to know what the chapter is
about. Probably some readers of this text who have repeated the Lord's
Prayer from infancy, would still need to do some studying before they
could tell the two or three leading thoughts in that prayer.

An especially good illustration of this fact in my own experience as a
teacher has been furnished in connection with the following paragraph,
taken from Dr. John Dewey's _Ethical Principles underlying Education._
"Information is genuine or educative only in so far as it effects
definite images and conceptions of material placed in social life.
Discipline is genuine and educative only as it represents a reaction
of the information into the individual's own powers, so that he can
bring them under control for social ends. Culture, if it is to be
genuine and educative, and not an external polish or factitious
varnish, represents the vital union of information and discipline. It
designates the socialization of the individual in his whole outlook
upon life and mode of dealing with it." I have had a large number of
graduate students who found it very difficult to state the point of
this paragraph, although every sentence is reasonably clear and they
are in close sequence.

Thus the larger thoughts, instead of being the sum of the details, are
an outgrowth from them, an interpretation of them; they are separate
and new ideas conceived through insight into the relations that the
individual statements bear to one another.

_The proper unit of progress in study_

From the foregoing we see that some facts are very large, while others
are of little importance, and that any one statement, taken
separately, lacks significance.

The field of thought, therefore, instead of being pictured as a plain,
is to be conceived as a very irregular surface, with elevations of
various heights scattered over it. And just as hills and mountains
rest upon and are approached by the lower land about them, so the
larger thoughts are supported and approached by the details that
relate to them.

A general of an army, desiring to get possession of a disputed region,
does not plan to take and hold the lower land without the higher
points, nor the higher points without the lower land. On the contrary,
each vantage point with its approaches constitutes, in his mind, one
division of the field, one strategic section, which is to be seized
and held. And these divisions or units all taken together constitute
the region.

So any portion of knowledge that is to be acquired should be divided
into suitable units of attack; one large thought together with its
supporting details should constitute one section, another large
thought together with its associated details a second, etc.; all of
these together composing the whole field. In other words, the student,
instead of making progress in knowledge fact by fact, should advance
by _groups of facts_. His smallest unit of progress should be a
considerable number of ideas so related to one another that they make
a whole; those that are alike in their support of some valuable
thought making up a bundle, and the farther-reaching, controlling idea
itself constituting the band that ties these bits together and
preserves their unity. Such a unit or, "point," as it is most often
called, is the basal element in thinking, just as the family is the
basal element in society.

_The size of such units of advance._

Such units of advance may vary indefinitely in size; but the danger is
that they will be too small. A minister who reaches his thirteenthly
is not likely to be a means of converting many sinners. A debater who
makes fifteen points will hardly find his judges enthusiastic in his
favor, no matter how weak his opponents may be. A chapter that
contains twenty or thirty paragraphs should not be remembered as
having an equal number of points. What is wanted is that the student
shall _feel the force_ of the ideas presented, and a great lot of
little points strung together cannot produce a forceful impression.

Any thought that is worth much must be supported by numerous facts and
will require considerable time or space for presentation. A minister
can hardly establish a half dozen valuable ideas in one sermon; he
does well if he presents two or three with force; and he is most
likely to make a lasting impression if he confines himself to one.
Drummond's _The Greatest Thing in the World_ is an example of the
possibilities in this direction.

Accordingly the student, in reading a chapter or listening to a
lecture, should find the relationships among the smaller portions of
the thought that will unify the subject-matter under a very few heads.
If several pages or a whole lecture can be reduced to a single point,
it should be done. He should always remember that to the extent that
the supporting details are numerous they will have a cumulative
effect, thereby rendering the central thought strong enough to have a
permanent influence.

_The meaning of organization of knowledge, and its value._

Such grouping of ideas as has thus far been considered, although of
the greatest importance, is only the beginning of the organization of
knowledge. For thus far only the minimum unit of advance has been
under discussion. Asone proceeds in the study of a subject these
smaller units collect in large numbers, and they must themselves be
subordinated to still broader central thoughts, according to their
nature. This grouping of details, according to their relationships,
into points, and of such points under still higher heads, and so on
until a whole subject and even the whole field of knowledge is
carefully ordered according to the relationships of its parts, is what
is meant by organization of knowledge.

Sometimes an entire book is thus organized under a single idea,
Fiske's _Critical Period of American History_ being an excellent
example. In this volume the conditions at the close of the
Revolutionary War are vividly described. It is shown that great debts
remained unpaid, that different systems of money caused confusion, and
that civil war was seriously threatened in various quarters. These and
other dangers convinced sober men that a firm central government was
indispensable. But then, it was no easy matter to bring such a
government into existence; and it is shown how numerous heroic
attempts in this direction barely escaped failure before the
constitution was finally adopted. On the whole, it is safe to say that
each paragraph or small number of paragraphs, while constituting a
unit, is at the same time a necessary part of the chapter to which it
belongs; likewise, each chapter, while constituting a unit, is an
integral part of the book as a whole; and all these parts are so
interrelated and complete that the whole book constitutes a unit.

Observe the advantage of such organization. The period of our history
immediately following the Revolution used to be one of the least
interesting of topics. Under the title "The Period following the
Treaty of Paris," or "The Period from the Close of the Revolutionary
War to the Adoption of the Constitution," the textbooks attempted
nothing more than an enumeration or history of the chief difficulties
and struggles of our youthful nation. In some cases, if I remember
correctly, this was designated "The Period of Confusion," and its
description left the reader in a thoroughly confused state of mind.

Fiske's book was a revelation. What had seemed very complex and
confused became here extremely simple; what had been especially dull
became here perhaps the most exciting topic in all our history. And
the secret of the advance is found to a large extent in the
organization. Thus organization is a means of effectiveness in the
presentation of knowledge, as in the use of a library or the conduct
of a business.

_The basis for the organization of knowledge in general._

All the facts in Mr. Fiske's book are organized about the stirring
question expressed in his title, _i. e._, how our ship of state barely
escaped being wrecked. Because this idea is of intense interest to us,
and the entire book bears upon it continually, the story is read with
bated breath. Drummond's _Greatest Thing in the World_ is another
excellent example on a smaller scale of ideas centered about a vital
human question. Thus specific problems of various degrees of breadth,
_that are intimately related to man_, can well be taken as the basis
for the organization of knowledge in general. Classical literature is
organized on this basis, which is called the pedagogical or
_psychological_ basis, and it seems desirable that other fields should
also be.

Yet there are other kinds of organization in which the relation to man
is not so plainly, or not at all, taken as the controlling idea. For
example, biology is often organized on the basis of the growing
complexity of the organism, the student beginning with the simple,
microscopic cell, and advancing to the more and more complex forms.
Formerly, after the Linnaean system, plants were classified according
to their similarity of structure. Now both plants and animals are
often classified on the basis of their manner of adaptation to their
environment. Thus within the field of science there is what is called
the _scientific_ basis of organization.

There is also the _logical_ basis of organization of thought,
according to which some most fundamental idea is taken as the
beginning of a system, or the premise, and other ideas are evolved
from this first principle. Rousseau attempted to develop his
educational doctrine in this way, starting with the assertion that
everything was good as it came from the Creator, but that everything
degenerated in the hands of man. John Calvin did the same in his
system of theology; and he reasoned so succinctly from his few
premises that any one granting these was almost compelled to accept
his entire doctrine.

Attention is called to these facts here in order to suggest that,
while the scientific and the logical bases of organization are in
common use, neither of them is adequate as the main basis of
organization for a young student who is studying a subject for the
first time. The reason is that each of them secures a careful ordering
of facts only with reference to the relations that those facts bear to
one another, and not with reference to the relation that they bear to
man; and in thus ignoring man they show grave faults. They are
indifferent to interest on the part of the learner; they offer no
standard for judging the relative worths of facts to man; and instead
of exerting an influence in the direction of applying knowledge, they
exert some influence in the opposite direction by their indifference
to man's view-point. It must be admitted that they are of great
assistance in securing thoroughness of comprehension by their
revelation of the relations existing among facts, and also that they
classify facts in a convenient way for finding them later; but they
are of greatest use to the advanced student, who is already supplied
with motive and with standards for judging worth, and who has proper
habits of study already formed; they can well follow but they should
not supplant the psychological basis.

_The student's double task in the organization of ideas._

An author's organization of subject-matter is frequently poor. But
whether it be poor or good, some hard work on the part of the student
is necessary before the proper grouping of ideas can take place in his
own mind. The danger is that there will be practically no arrangement
of his thoughts, as is well illustrated in the following letter from
an eight-year-old boy.


Will you please buy some of my 24 package of my Bluine, if you will
please buy one package it will help me a lot. One Saturday we played
ball against the east side and beat twelve to 1. I will get a baseball
suit if I can sell 24 packages of Bluine. We had quite a blizzard here
to-day. For one package it costs ten cents. When we played ball
against the east side we only had 6 boys and they had twelve. We have
a base ball team, and I am Captain, so you see I need a suit. Gretchen
and Mother are playing backgammon with one dice. I catch sometimes
when our real catcher is not there. When he is there I play first
          Your loving nephew,    JAMES.

There is one prominent idea in this letter, touching the sale of
Bluine, with reasons; and parts of two others, concerning the weather
and the occupation of mother and sister. The first is the most fully
treated; but, as might be expected from an eight-year-old child, no
one idea is supported by sufficient detail to round it out and make it

In avoiding such defects two things are necessary: First, the student
must decide what points he desires to make. They should be so
definitely conceived that they can be easily distinguished from one
another and can even be _counted_. Then, in the second place, all
the details that bear upon a central idea should be collected and
presented together in sequence under the point concerned. By this
massing of all supporting statements under their proper heads,
overlapping or duplicating is avoided, and clearness is gained. Also,
force is secured by the cumulative effect of intimately related facts,
just as it is secured by the concerted attack by the divisions of an

Even the better students often stop with finding the main thoughts
alone. And the temptation to do no more is strong, since teachers
seldom require a forceful presentation of ideas in recitation; they
are thankful to get a halting statement of the principal facts. But
the student should remember that he is studying for his own good, not
merely to keep teachers contented; and he should not deceive himself
by his own fluency of speech. He should form the habit of often asking
himself, "What is my point?" also, "What facts have I offered for its
support, and have I massed them all as I should?" He must thus form
the habit of arranging his ideas into points if he wishes to be

_Precautions against inaccuracy in the grouping of facts into points._

The dangers of inaccuracy in this kind of study are numerous. First
the individual statements must be carefully interpreted. A certain
very intelligent ten-year-old girl studying arithmetic read the
problem, "What is the interest on $500 at six per cent for one year?"
Then, probably under the influence of some preceding problem, she
found four per cent of the principal, and added the amount to the
principal for her answer, thus showing two mistakes in reading.
Perhaps half of the mistakes that children make in the solution of
problems is due to such careless reading. A certain fifth-year class
in history read a very short paragraph about the three ships that were
secured for Columbus's first voyage, the paragraph ending with the
statement, "On board the three [ships] were exactly ninety men." When
they were asked later how many men accompanied Columbus the common
answer was, "Two hundred and seventy, since there were ninety men on
each ship."

These mistakes are typical of those that are common, even among
adults, as in the reading of examination questions, for instance. I
have more than once asked graduate students in a university to state
the _one principal_ thought obtained from the extended study of an
article on education, and have received a paper with a threefold
answer, (_a_), (_b_), (_c_). Such responses are due to extreme
carelessness in reading the questions asked, as well as to a desire to
be obliging and allow an instructor some freedom of choice. Thus the
meaning of the individual statements that constitute the material out
of which larger truths are derived, must be carefully watched if the
final interpretation of an author's thought is to be accurate.

The tendency toward error is greater still when it comes to finding
the central thought for a portion of text. This was once amusingly
illustrated by a class composed only of the principals and high-school
teachers in a county institute, some seventy-five persons in all. The
text under discussion was the first chapter of Professor James's well-
known book, _Talks to Teachers_. The title of the chapter is
"Psychology and the Teaching Art"; and Professor James, fearing that
teachers might be expecting too much from his field, sets to work to
discourage the idea that psychology can be a panacea for all of a
teacher's ills. The larger portion of the twelve pages is devoted to
this object, although the explicit statement is made, on the third
page, that "psychology ought certainly to give the teacher radical
help." But so little space is given to this declaration that, in spite
of its definiteness and positive character, the class as a whole
reached the conclusion that he was advising teachers not to study
psychology at all. In other words, they had failed to balance up one
part of the chapter against the other; and their failure left them in
the ridiculous position of assuming that an author of a book for
teachers was dissuading teachers from reading his book.

A third and perhaps the most common source of error is found in the
particular wording given to the central thought. In order to be
perfectly definite and accurate any thought should be expressed in the
form of a full statement. It ordinarily takes at least a whole
sentence to express a whole thought. But it is very common for
students even, who have formed the habit of thinking by points, to
allow brief headings, consisting of single words or short phrases, to
represent entire thoughts. Although such headings, on account of their
brevity, may be useful, they are merely names for the thought, not
statements of the thought itself; and it means the loosest kind of
thinking to stop with them. A mere title, as a lecture "About Russia,"
for instance, designates only the outside limits to which a person
confines himself--provided he sticks to his theme. It often tells no
more about the substance of the thought within those limits than a
man's name tells about his character. It is usually easy to tell "what
a page is about"; but it usually requires keen thinking to word its
principal idea sharply in a full sentence. Many students are
inaccurate in the interpretation of authors and in their own thinking,
not so much because they lack mental ability as because they lack the
energy to continue their thinking to this point of wording the central
idea accurately in a full sentence.


The grouping of facts into points requires ability to perceive that
some statements are more valuable than others, without reference to
the space that they happen to occupy on the printed page; it
presupposes, also, the power to rearrange a stranger's ideas. It is,
therefore, an aggressive kind of work, in which even adults often fail
to distinguish themselves. Can children be expected to assume such

_Proofs of such ability.
1. As shown by children ten years old and younger._

Proof that any ten-year-old child has already assumed it in a simple
way for some years is contained in the following facts:--

1. Long before the school age is reached a child has had much practice
in picking out the logical subjects of sentences, inasmuch as he has
learned to comprehend statements made to him. Distinguishing the
subject of a sentence is the same kind of work as distinguishing the
subject of a paragraph or chapter, only it is simpler.

2. Any six-year-old child has, likewise, had much practice in
detecting the subject of short conversations, especially of those of
interest to him. If he happens to overhear a conversation between his
parent and teacher touching a possible punishment for himself, he can
be trusted to sum it up and get the gist of it all, even though some
of the words do not reach him. That is exactly the kind of thinking
required in getting the point of a lecture.

3. In relating fairy tales and other stories, during the first years
at school, children easily fall into the habit of relating a part, or
a point, at a time. And, if the memory or the courage fails, the
teacher gives help by asking, "What will you tell about first? And
then? And then?" thus setting them right, and keeping them so, by
having them divide the story into its principal sections.

4. In composition, in the lower and middle grades, the paragraphing of
thought, first as presented on the printed page, then as called for in
oral recitation and in conversation, and finally in the child's
written form, is a prominent subject of instruction. No one maintains
that such work is unnatural, or too difficult, for such young

5. Development instruction, which has already been mentioned as
peculiarly successful with young children, would be impossible if
children were unable to appreciate the character of a principal
thought, as the topic or point for discussion, and of other thoughts
as subordinate to it.

_2. As shown in the use of different texts and of reference books._

The use of several texts in one subject, as history, by one child, and
the use of reference books,--both of which are common above the fifth
year of school,--presuppose the ability to study by topics, and to
bring together from various sources the facts that support a principal

_3. As shown by the rapid improvement they can make in such study._

Finally, the progress that children can make, when direct instruction
in this matter is given to them, is good proof of their ability in
this direction. For example, in a geography class composed of ten-
year-old children, I once assigned for a lesson the following section
from the text-book:--

POLITICAL DIVISIONS.--You will remember that Spain was the nation that
helped Columbus make his discovery of America. The Spaniards afterward
settled in the southern part of the continent, and introduced the
Spanish language there. That is still the chief language spoken in
Mexico, in the southern part of North America. Mexico became
independent of Spain many years ago.

Other nations also sent explorers and made settlements. Among these
were the English, who settled chiefly along the Atlantic coast, and
finally came to own the greater part of the continent north of Mexico.

In time the English, who lived in the central portion of eastern North
America, waged war against England, and chose George Washington as
their leader. On the 4th of July, 1776, they declared their
independence of England, and finally won it completely. This part
became known as the United States; but the region to the north, which
England was able to keep, and which she still possesses, is called
Canada. Find each of these countries on the map (Fig. 123). Point
toward Canada and Mexico.

Besides these three large nations, several smaller ones occupy Central
America, which lies south of Mexico.

After the children had had time to study it somewhat carefully, I
requested them to tell briefly what the section was about. The first
three replies were as follows, in the following order, and these were
not improved on later, without suggestion: "It tells about discovery."
"It tells about the language in Mexico." "It tells about what are
nations." This was their first attempt at such work, and it met with
meager success. The heading in the text seemed to give them no aid
whatever, which was sufficient proof of its unfitness for children.

Yet within one month, with some attention given to this matter every
day, I found half of the class of twenty to be reasonably safe in
picking out the central thought in a page of their text.

From all these facts it seems that children are reasonably capable of
receiving instruction in regard to the grouping of facts into points.
It is evident, also, that they need such instruction badly, if they
are to study properly the lessons that are assigned to them.


_1. The teacher's example._

In the first place, the example of the teacher can be of great
influence. Any good teacher should do more than ask questions and
explain difficult topics. She should now and then talk to her
children. Particularly general exercises she should give expression to
other ideas than those immediately involved in instruction. If at such
times her ideas are carefully grouped about one or more central
thoughts, her pupils are likely to feel the roundness and the
consequent clearness and force of her points, and to be ambitious to
imitate her style. Many an adult, no doubt, can recall both the
pleasure he experienced in early youth when listening to some speaker
who possessed this merit, and early attempts that he made to imitate
such a style.

_2. Use of written outlines in development instruction._

In development instruction, in the lower and middle grades in
particular, brief headings representing the main facts reached might
be placed on the blackboard, or written down by each pupil as the
facts are established. Such writing is of great assistance in keeping
the outline in mind. Frequently, even in the lower grades, review
outlines might be required without such visual help.

_3. In connection with the use of text.
(a) Finding of the principal thought in paragraphs._

A terse statement of the principal thought in each paragraph of some
story or other well-organized text is a valuable exercise in
determining the relation that the different sentences in a paragraph
bear to one another, and the gist of the whole.

_(b) Finding where a point begins and ends._

Pupils might point to the place on the page where the treatment of a
certain point begins; also where it ends. Thus they would receive
exercise in distinguishing not only the principal thought, but also
the _turns_ in the thought, and therefore the most suitable stopping
places for reflection.

_(c) The making of marks, to indicate relative values._

The most valuable statements might well be _marked_ in the text,
some system of marks--as, for instance, one, two, or three short
vertical lines in the margin--being agreed upon to indicate different
degrees of worth. It is very common for adults, particularly very
careful students, thus to mark books that they read. Unless one does
so, it is difficult to find again, or review quickly, the main ideas.
Yet one of the especially important things to teach young people in
the handling of a book is some way of reviewing quickly the most
valuable parts. Many persons who would gladly review the few most
interesting portions of a book have no way of doing so except by
reading the volume through again. That takes so much time that they
omit the review altogether.

In case the books belong to the school or library, all such marks may
be objectionable. Certainly the aimless marking of any book is to be
condemned. But thoughtful marking, with the view of showing relative
values, is likely to increase the amount of reflection on the part of
the one who makes the marks. It is likely, also, to increase the
amount of reflection on the part of the later reader, for he, seeing
the marks, is inclined to weigh the thought long enough to decide
whether he agrees or disagrees with the previous reader.

If, however, the objections to such markings are insuperable, children
can at least be encouraged to own some of the books that they use.
They ought to be developing a pride in a library of their own, anyway.
"If a book is worth reading, it is worth buying," says Ruskin. "No
book is worth anything which is not worth much; nor is it serviceable
until it has been read and reread, and loved and loved again, and
_marked_, so that you can refer to the passages you want in it, as a
soldier can seize the weapon he needs in an armory, or a housewife
bring the spice she needs from her store." [Footnote: Ruskin's _Sesame
and Lilies._]

It might be added, also, that all the writing thus suggested could be
kept on note paper or in note books, if forbidden to appear in printed

It should be borne in mind, however, that one important object in
using books in school is to teach their proper use outside of school.
To this end, books should be used in school in substantially the same
way in which they are expected to be used outside. There is often a
lack of correspondence between these two methods in various ways.

Wherever the markings indicating relative values happen to be placed,
they can well be compared in class and the disagreements discussed.
This would throw a class into the heart of the subject-matter of a
text on their own initiative. If it resulted in spending a whole
recitation in a discussion of relative values, as it frequently would,
it should be remembered that that is the most valuable kind of study.

_(d) The selection of marginal headings._

If the books used contain no marginal headings, the pupils might
propose some. And if marginal headings are found in some, proposals
for their improvement would be in place, since such headings are
rarely good. For example, the heading "Political Divisions," quoted
above, would be much more definite and significant if changed to "The
Countries in North America," and children could soon learn to make
such improvements. Headings of chapters, likewise, often need
rewording in a simpler, more definite and restrictive way.

_(e) The collecting of supports for leading thoughts._

Choosing some one of the principal thoughts, the children should have
practice in finding the data that support it, and in presenting such
data in good sequence and in an otherwise forceful manner.

_(f) Stating the leading thoughts in close sequence._

As one way of summarizing review lessons the children might enumerate
the leading thoughts in close sequence, giving a careful wording for
each in a full statement.

_4. As a preparation for the taking of notes._

Pupils in the higher grades having to consult reference books
frequently, and to take notes also from discussions and lectures,
should receive careful instruction in note-taking. As preparation for
such work, the teacher might read to the class, while the latter
listen with the object of telling how many and what are the main
points. Sometimes they might call "halt" as they realize that a turn
is being made and another point is beginning. They should be reminded
that the relationships of ideas, which are indicated by punctuation
and paragraphing on the printed page, are revealed by a reader's or
speaker's manner, as when he makes short pauses between sentences, or
emphasizes an idea by voice or gesture, or allows his voice to fall at
the end of some minor thought, or turns around, stops to get a drink,
walks across the floor, or waits for applause at the close of one of
his principal flights. Teacher and pupils might all take notes
together, sometimes on principal points, sometimes only on the
supporting data for one such point. Then the results might be
compared, and the small amount of writing necessary might be

_B. The neglect of relatively unimportant facts or statements_

We have seen that the organization of ideas requires the recognition
of some thoughts as central, and the grouping of various details about
them. While it places peculiar emphasis on these controlling facts, it
also recognizes details as an essential part of knowledge.

_Neglect as well as emphasis involved in relative values._

A question now arises about the relative values among these details.
While they are an essential part of knowledge, do they themselves vary
indefinitely in worth? And while many deserve much attention, are
there many others that may be slighted and even ignored?

The first part of this chapter has really dealt with the emphasis that
is necessary for some ideas. But emphasis at one point suggests
neglect at another point, for the two terms are correlative. Some
persons would even assert that neglect is as important an element in
proper study as emphasis, and that the two terms should be in equally
good repute. This part of the chapter deals with the neglect that is
due in proper study. It is, perhaps, a more difficult topic to treat
than the preceding. Certainly many teachers are afraid to advise young
people to neglect parts of their lessons, lest such suggestion might
seem a direct recommendation to be careless.

_Why neglect is scarcely allowable in some subjects._

We have seen that, to a certain extent, the facts in the three R's and
spelling have practically the same worth. All of the combinations of
simple numbers must be mastered; likewise all the words in a well-
selected list in spelling, etc. Since differences in value are wanting
here, there is no occasion for slighting any part. Any neglect in such
cases signifies an oversight or a mistake.

_Why neglect is necessary in most subjects._

But, as before, these subjects to some extent form an exception to the
general rule. In most studies neglect of some parts is positively

It has been already shown that no exact number of facts needs to be
brought together in order to make up any particular topic or study.
Besides those directly expressed in print, there are others
immediately suggested; and the number of possible ideas bearing on a
given matter is legion. Neglect, therefore, becomes not only
necessary, but even prominent, as a factor in study. One might ask,
"Are not all the statements in a valuable book that one happens to be
reading worthy of careful consideration?" Not necessarily, by any
means. The production of thought parallels the production of grain. An
acre of ground, that yields thirty bushels or eighteen hundred pounds
of wheat, may easily grow two whole tons of straw and chaff. These
latter are absolutely necessary to the formation of the wheat kernel;
yet the consumer usually has little use for them; he gets past them to
the grain with the least possible delay, often throwing these other
materials away.

Likewise, many things that are necessary in the production of thought
are of little use to the consumer. For example, there are often
introductory remarks that have lost their original significance; there
are asides and pleasantries; there are careful transitions from one
thought to another, to avoid abruptness; there are usually more or
less irrelevant remarks due to the fact that even authors' minds
wander now and then; and there are often some things that seemed
important to the author which in no possible way can be of value to
the reader.

For these reasons, some things are to be omitted, if possible, without
being read, because they are worthless. Many details are unworthy of a
second thought. Many other statements should be cast aside after
having been carefully enough examined to make sure that they will not
be further needed. Not only should some statements and paragraphs be
slighted, but whole chapters as well. Similar practice is familiar to
all in connection with conversations and discussions; and books are of
the same nature as these, having the same faults, though perhaps to a
less degree. What the student wants to carry away is valuable thought,
with the details that vitally concern it; and the space occupied by
such thought and its supporting details, as in the case of the wheat,
is small as compared with the space occupied by the chaff that
accompanies them. "Some books are to be tasted," says Bacon, "others
to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some
books are to be read only in part; others to be read, but not
curiously [attentively]; and some few to be read wholly and with
diligence and attention." [Footnote: Bacon's Essays, _Of Studies._] If
he had added that very many books should not be read at all, he would
have covered the field.

As a rule, therefore, it is a serious error for a student to
distribute his time and energy somewhat equally over a lesson or a
chapter or a book. There are times when he should advance rapidly and
even skip, as well as other times when he should ponder carefully and
review much.

_How safety and skill in neglect may be developed.
1. By proceeding from principal thoughts to details._

How can one become safe and skillful in this phase of study? The
student must, of course, read or listen to statements largely in the
order of the author's presentation; but two opposite courses of
procedure are possible, and much depends upon the choice that is made
between them.

On the one hand, one can proceed sentence by sentence, examining each
statement carefully, looking up new words and references,
supplementing, tracing the bearings on one's own life, and doing
whatever else is necessary to assimilate each thought. The single
sentences can be put together so as to reveal the thoughts of
paragraphs; and the central ideas of paragraphs and chapters can
likewise be brought together, so as to reveal the main thoughts of the
work as a whole. Thus the general movement may be from the details to
the larger features, and the controlling ideas may be the last to be

The Bible is very commonly studied in this manner, the verses of a
chapter and the chapters of a book being taken one by one in the order
given and thoroughly mastered, and the outline of the whole being the
last thing considered. Geography and history are also frequently
studied in the same way.

On the other hand, while the reader is still obliged to follow the
author's order, he may at the start be mainly on the outlook for the
general trend of the thought, for the principal issues that are
raised, with the principal answers that are offered; and, if the work
is at all difficult, he may for the time pass over many obscure little
matters, such as new words, strange references, and meaningless
statements, in the sole quest for these larger elements. Then, having
determined these tentatively, he can set to work to examine the
details on which they depend, making the investigation as thorough as
he wishes. Thus the general movement may be from the principal to the
minor thoughts, and the details may be carefully considered last of
all. In accordance with this plan we hear it recommended that the book
of Job be read "at a sitting," or, in case one's spirit of devotion
lacks that degree of endurance, at two or three sittings. Likewise,
Gray's _Elegy_ might be read through without pause, even several
times, before any part is studied in detail; so, also, the drama of
_William Tell_; one act, and perhaps the whole of the drama, of
_Julius Caesar;_ any one of Browning's shorter poems; and ordinary
lessons or chapters in history and geography.

While these two courses may finally bring about the same result, the
latter is much the more economical plan, for the following reason: The
individual statements vary greatly in value, as we have seen, some
requiring only slight attention, while others must be closely
scrutinized. What determines their value is their relation to the
leading ideas. The latter are the sole standards of worth, the sole
guides, in discriminating among them. If, then, the student has not
found out what the leading ideas are, what basis of selection has he?
How, then, is he to know what are the important details and what are
the unimportant? What can he do, then, more than merely to distribute
his energies somewhat equally and blindly over the various statements
offered, until the principal thoughts come to light? Only after that
will he be in a position to measure relative values and thus to deal
with the details intelligently. The first plan, therefore, involves a
great waste of time. For the same reason that it is economical to go
sight-seeing with a guide, or at least to examine a guidebook before
setting out, it is economical to determine the gist of the thought,
the spirit and substance of the whole, before giving careful attention
to the minor parts.

_2. By keeping the standard of values ever in mind._

The student must not only find the central idea as early as possible,
but he must hold it with a firm grip. Both of these things require
much tenacity of purpose. In following the order of an author's
presentation, considerable detail may have to be traversed before the
main thought begins to dawn in the student's mind, and temptations to
forget about the main issue and to become absorbed in these details
are ever present. It is on this account that teachers attending
teachers' gatherings frequently fail to reach those topics for
discussion that have been advertised; they even fail when printed
reports are the avowed subject for conference. After having arrived at
their destination with much sacrifice, they seem often to forget
exactly what they came for, or to be diverted from it with surprising
ease. However, they are not inferior to other adults in this respect.

Again, after having settled upon the main idea tentatively, one must
_hold_ it with determination and _use_ it. Children often fail to hold
a question in mind long enough to give a relevant answer. I once asked
a fifth-year class in history, "Who discovered America?" when almost
immediately came the response, "Vespucci sailed along the coast of
South America and named the whole country!" Or they hold it in mind a
moment, and then confuse it with other things, or let it go entirely.
I asked the class, "What is the color of the Indians?" and received an
answer telling about their color and their clothing. At another time I
inquired, "How long has it been since America was discovered?" One boy
replied, "Two hundred and fifty years," remembering, I suppose, that
that number had recently been used in class. But the example in
subtraction was solved on the blackboard before the class, and the
correct answer, 413, was obtained. Once more I said, "Four hundred
and thirteen years since what?" All were silent for a moment, having
quite forgotten the original question. Then came the reply,
"Since--since--Columbus sailed the deep."

Such carelessness among children sometimes arouses the ire of
teachers; but adults are little better. When a body of them meets for
the discussion of a certain question, the probability is that, if the
first speaker speaks directly to the point, the second will digress
somewhat, the third will touch the subject only slightly, and the
fourth will talk about a different matter. Many a discussion that has
started off well leads to much excitement without any one's knowing
definitely what the subject of dispute is. It is rarely the case that
every page of a paper that is read before teachers bears plainly upon
the subject announced.

Only in parliamentary discussions, where there is always a definite
"question before the house," is it customary for participants to
remember the topic and stick to it. This happens then only because it
is understood that any one may be "called to order" at any time, and
for the sake of self-protection each person makes a special effort not
to forget.

This exceptional caution must become habitual with the student if he
is to study effectively. He must look for the principal thought until
he finds it; and, having found it, he must _nurse_ it by recalling it
every few minutes, while using it as a basis for determination of

_Rapid reading and its method among scholars._

That various rates of reading are desirable, even to the point of
skipping over much matter, is indicated by the way in which some
eminent men have studied. For instance, Joseph Cook in his _Hints
for Home Reading_ remarks, "It is said that Carlyle reads on an
average a dozen books a day. Of course he examines them chiefly with
his fingers, and after long practice is able to find at once the
jugular vein and carotid artery of any author." Likewise, "John Quincy
Adams was said to have 'a carnivorous instinct for the jugular vein'
of an argument." [Footnote: Page 80.] "Rapid reading," says Koopman,
[Footnote: Koopman, _The Mastery of Books_, p. 47.] "is the...
difficult art of skipping needless words and sentences. To recognize
them as needless without reading them, is a feat that would be thought
impossible, if scholars everywhere did not daily perform it. With the
turning of a few leaves to pluck out the heart of a book's mystery--this
is the high art of reading, the crowning proof that the reader has
attained the mastery of books." The fact that the first and last parts
of both paragraphs and chapters very often reveal their leading thought,
is of course a great aid in such rapid reading.

_Is the spirit of induction here opposed?_

It is pertinent to ask whether this method of study does not oppose
the spirit of induction. Men like Carlyle seem to ignore that spirit
when they turn quickly to the central ideas or a book and, after
reading these, cast the work aside. It should be remembered, however,
that the minds of such men are so well stocked with information that
most, and sometimes all, of the author's details may be unnecessary to
them; they are already prepared for the generalization.

The ordinary student, proceeding more slowly, can also be on the watch
at the start for the main issues, without offending against induction.
In so doing he is not necessarily attempting to master the
abstractions first; he may be merely trying to find out what the main
questions are, in order to supply himself with a guide.

Many an author states his principal problem near the beginning of his
treatment, and then it is easy for the reader or listener to view all
the details in its light. But when this is not the case, the student
must go in quest of it in order to _get the setting_ for all the
statements, rather than in order to assimilate it. He must see the
whole in some perspective before he can study the parts intelligently.
The worth of specific purposes as discussed in pp. 31-60 is clearly
seen in this connection.

_Relation of such neglect to thoroughness.
1. A common conception of thoroughness and its influence on practice._

It is of vital importance further to inquire what relation such
neglect bears to thoroughness in study.

The answer depends upon the meaning attached to the word _thorough_.
We often hear it said that "Trifles make perfection, and perfection is
no trifle"; also that "thoroughness has to do with details." Again, as
a warning against carelessness in little matters, we are told that--

     For the want of a nail the shoe was lost.
     For the want of a shoe the horse was lost.
     For the want of the horse the rider was lost.
     For the want of the rider the battle was lost.
     For the loss of the battle the kingdom was lost.

There is certainly a valuable truth in these maxims, and some people,
therefore, accept them at their face value. Calling to mind that many
of the greatest discoveries have hinged on seemingly insignificant
facts, and that the world-renowned German scientists are distinguished
by infinite pains in regard to details, they conceive that the student
is primarily concerned with trifles. Knowing that the dollars will
take care of themselves if the dimes are carefully saved, they reason
that knowledge is properly mastered if the little things receive close
attention. It becomes their ambition, therefore, to let nothing that
is little escape them. In this spirit the conscientious student,
largely identifying conscientiousness with thoroughness, keeps a
special watch for little things, feeling that the smaller an item is
the more fully it tests his thoroughness, and the more meritorious he
is if he attends to it.

The influence of this notion of thoroughness upon practice has been
marked in some schools. And since spelling furnishes excellent
material for testing care for details, that subject has often been
given high rank partly for that special reason. I have known one large
training school for teachers in which for twenty years and more
probably more time and energy on the part of both faculty and students
were expended on spelling than on any other single subject. It was
unpardonable not to cross the _t_ or dot the _i_, not to insert the
hyphen or the period. Having written a word in spelling, it was a
heinous offense to change it after second thought, and a dozen
misspelled words per term seriously endangered one's diploma at the
end of the three-year course.

No one can deny great merit to such strenuousness. So definite an aim,
applied to all subjects and relentlessly pursued by a whole faculty,--as
was the case in this school,--compelled students to work till they
overworked, and the school was therefore regarded as excellent. Yet
this conception makes thoroughness a purely _quantitative_ matter; it
accepts _thoroughness_ as meaning _throughness_ or completeness,
signifying the inclusion of everything from "beginning to end," or
from "cover to cover."

_2. The correct notion of thoroughness._

This notion of thoroughness, however, is certainly wrong in opposing
all neglect; and the above-quoted maxims show themselves, in their
disregard for relative values, to be only half truths, In the school
just mentioned there was small emphasis of relative worths and of the
use of judgment in the choice of objects to receive one's attention.
As thoroughness consisted in attention to details, little things
became _per se_ worthy of study, and comparative worth was on that
account overlooked.

But, as we have seen, there is no hope of mastering _all_ the ideas
connected with any topic, so that the student must be reconciled
to the exercise of judgment in making selection. This choice must be
exercised, too, among the details themselves; it is not confined to a
selection of the large thoughts in distinction from the details.
Details vary infinitely among themselves in value; some, like the
horseshoe nail, easily bear a vital relation to large results; others,
like the use of a hyphen in a word, in all probability bear no
important relation to anything. Those that have this vital relation
are essential and need careful attention; the others are non-essential
and deserve for that reason to be neglected. In other words,
thoroughness is a _qualitative_ rather than a quantitative matter; it
is qualitative because it involves careful selection in accordance
with the nature and relation of the details. The student, to whom
thoroughness is a question of _allness_ needs mental endurance as a
chief virtue; the real student, on the other hand, requires constant
exercise of judgment. In brief, the proper kind of thoroughness calls
for a good degree of good sense.

The thoroughness that is here advocated implies no underestimate of
little things; it only condemns want of discrimination among them.
Even the painstaking German scientist is no devotee to all things that
are little. Carrying on his investigation with reference to some
definite problem, he is concerned only with such details as are
closely related to it. If he is uncertain just what so-called little
things do relate to it,--as has been the case, for instance, in the
investigation of the cause of yellow fever,--he carefully investigates
one thing after another. But in so doing he discriminates very sharply
among details, throwing many aside without hesitation, briefly
examining some, and finally settling on certain ones for exhaustive

It is only those little things that are thus related to something of
real value that deserve attention. The mathematician is a stickler for
little things. He insists that figures should be plainly made, and
that 1 + 1 should never be allowed to equal 3. He is wholly in the
right, because the slightest error in reading a number, in placing a
decimal point, or in finding a sum must vitiate the whole result.
Little things of that sort are called little, but they are in reality

It is unfortunate that such matters are often called trifles, for a
trifle is usually supposed to be something that is of very little
account; the name thus misleads. Such details are essential; other
details are non-essential. It would be well if people would more
generally divide details into these two classes, and apply the term
trifles only to the latter sort. By neglecting non-essentials one
could find more time for the details that are essential. Neglect of
some things, therefore, instead of being opposed to thoroughness, is a
direct and necessary means to it.

One cannot deny that this notion of thoroughness has its dangers, for
it places the responsibility upon the student of using his own
judgment. That is always dangerous. If the student lacks earnestness,
or insight, or balance, he is bound to make mistakes. He is likely to
make them anyway; and he may merely pick and choose according to
comfort or whim, and do the most desultory, careless studying. It
would be easier for him to "look out for all the little things" than
to discriminate among them, for intelligent selection requires more
real thinking.

_The dangers in these conceptions, and the conclusion.
1. The danger in this conception of thoroughness._

On the other hand, it should be remembered that neglect of details in
general has not been advocated; it is only a judicious selection among
them. And such selection calls for no more energy or ability than
selection among larger facts. If we can trust students at all to
distinguish values among the larger thoughts--as every one knows that
we must--there is the same reason for trusting them to distinguish the
relative worths of details.

_2. The danger in the alternative plan._

The dangers of the alternative plan should also be borne in mind.
Suppose that a capable student is taught to let no trifles escape him.
The danger then is that, to the extent that he is earnest, he will
fall in love with little things, until his vision for larger things
becomes clouded. He may always be intending to pass beyond these to
the larger issues; but he is in danger of failing so regularly that he
will come in time to value details in themselves, not for what they
lead to; the details become the large things, and the really large
matters are forgotten.

A former professor in a large normal school illustrated this tendency
exactly. At sixty years of age he was an unusually well-informed,
cultured man, but he had developed a mania for little things. He had
charge of the practice department, and each fall term it was customary
to receive applications from about two hundred students for the
practice teaching for that term. Each applicant filled out a blank,
giving his name, age, preferred study to teach, preferred age of
children, and experience in teaching. These papers had to be briefly
examined; then at four o'clock in the afternoon of the same first day
all these applicants were to be called together in one group for
instructions about their teaching. By this arrangement the practice
teaching could be started off very promptly.

On one occasion in the writer's knowledge, however, this gentleman
could not resist the temptation to blue-pencil every mistake in
spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc., that he could find in this
entire set of papers, which must have occupied nearly two hours.
Meanwhile, this task was so hugely absorbing, he entirely forgot to
notify the two hundred applicants that they were wanted at four
o'clock, and thus one day out of a year of less than two hundred was
largely lost for the practice teaching.

The main fault of half of the good teachers in the elementary schools
to-day is over-conscientiousness about little things. Believing that
every mistake in written work should be corrected, that the blackboard
should be kept thoroughly clean, that each day's lessons should be
carefully planned, that, in short, every little duty should be well
performed, they putter away at such tasks until there is no time left
for much larger duties, such as physical exercise, sociability, and
general reading. As a result they become habitually tired,
unsympathetic, and narrow, and therefore _schoolish_. It is a
strange commentary on education when conscientiousness means
particular care for little things, as it very often does among
teachers. It is desirable that a teacher prepare each day's lessons in
full, and that she do a hundred other things each day, as well. But
when she cannot do all these--and she never can--it is highly
important that she apportion her time according to relative values;
for instance, it is far better that she omit some of her preparation
of lessons for the sake of recreation, if recreation would otherwise
be omitted. People are unfitted for the work of life until they view
it in fair perspective. One of the important objects of abundant and
broad educational theory for teachers is to help them preserve the
proper balance between large and small things; and, owing to the
common tendency to neglect the larger things for the smaller, one of
the prominent duties of school principals and supervisors is to remind
both teachers and students of the larger values in life in general and
in study in particular.

_3. The conclusion._

It is evident that grave dangers are at hand, whether one slights some
details or attempts to master them all. But no matter what the dangers
are, there is one right thing for the student to do, that is, to
develop the habit of weighing worths, of sensing the relative values
of the facts that he meets. Good judgment consists largely in the
proper appreciation of relative values; and since that is one of the
very prominent factors in successful living, as well as in study, it
is one of the most important abilities for the student to cultivate.

Not only the equal valuation of all details, but the treatment of
various rules and virtues as absolute, is likewise directly hostile to
this habit of mind. Young people who are taught to be always
economical, or always punctual, or always regular, are thereby tempted
to substitute thoughtless obedience for exercise of judgment. It is
not always wise to be saving. A certain college boy owned three pairs
of gloves; one pair was so old and soiled that it was suitable only
for use in the care of the furnace; the other two pairs were quite
new. However, having been taught to be always saving, he wore the old
pair to college during much of his senior year, and saved the other
two. He was true to his early teaching at the expense of good sense.

There are few circumstances in life that can be properly treated by
rule of thumb. Good judgment is called for at every turn; and the
habit of considering relative values in regard to all affairs is one
that the student should constantly cultivate, no matter what dangers
have to be encountered.


This ability is so intimately related to the ability that is necessary
in grouping related facts that the one can hardly exist without the
other. Yet it is well to observe what a demand there is for neglect in
ordinary school work, and how this demand is met by children. Mistakes
in beginning reading are very common, such as saying _a_ for _an_,
_the_ for _thu_, not pausing for a comma, leaving out a word, putting
in a word, etc. When fairy tales are related, slight omissions,
mistakes in grammar, too frequent use of _and_, etc. are to be
expected. In the pupil's board work, penmanship, and written
composition minor errors are innumerable. What is to be done with all
these? Certainly many of them must be entirely passed over, or more
important things will never be reached.

In their literature and in their reference books many little
difficulties are met with that must likewise be overlooked. Take for
instance the following typical paragraph from Hawthorne's _Gorgon's

"Well, then," continued the king, still with a _cunning_ smile on
his lips, "I have a little _adventure_ to propose to you; and, as
you are a brave and _enterprising_ youth, you will doubtless look
upon it as a great piece of good luck to have so rare an opportunity
of _distinguishing_ yourself. You must know, my good Perseus, I think
of getting married to the beautiful Princess Hippodamia; and it is
_customary_, on these occasions, to make the bride a present of some
_far-fetched_ and _elegant curiosity_. I have been a little
_perplexed_, I must honestly confess, where to obtain anything likely
to please a princess of her _exquisite_ taste. But, this morning, I
_flatter_ myself, I have thought of _precisely_ the article."

Here is an adult's vocabulary, as well as an adult's ideas, with
perhaps a dozen new words, and anything like mathematical thoroughness
in the study of this paragraph would destroy its attractiveness. It is
well for teachers to consider what would be a thorough treatment of
such a section. Encyclopedias and other reference works also present
many strange words and difficult paragraphs that children cannot stop
to examine with care. In their ordinary school work, therefore,
children find many details that must be overlooked; the more important
things cannot be accomplished unless these less important ones are

It would be strange if children were quite incapable of doing what is
so plainly required of them. It is true that they can be taught to
reach the extreme of foolishness in the insignificance of the details
that they mention. But it is also true that a fair amount of wise
guidance will lead them to exercise good judgment in their selection.
In other words, thoroughness as a relative and qualitative matter,
rather than only quantitative, can be appreciated by them. Any teacher
who has tested them carefully in this respect is likely to agree to
this assertion. It is as natural for a lot of children to condemn the
mention of useless detail, because of its waste of time, as it is for
them to condemn selfish or immoral conduct.


_1. Placing responsibility upon children._

The responsibility of deciding what shall be neglected should very
often be left with the children, no matter how many mistakes and how
much loss of time it may temporarily cause. Criticisms and suggestions
from the teacher would be in place later. Many parents as well as
teachers refuse to place this responsibility upon children for fear of
the mistakes that they will make. On account of this fear they make it
as nearly as possible unnecessary for children to judge freely, by
giving them arbitrary rules to follow, or by directing them exactly
what they shall do each moment. This cultivates poor judgment by
depriving children of the very practice that will make their judgments
reliable; it prevents the school requirements from corresponding to
those in life outside.

Confidence in the general and growing good sense of children is a
presupposition in the sensible parent and teacher. Having such
confidence, their mission is to let these young people alone much of
the time; to direct, not to control the selections that they make,
assuming the role of advisers and critics but not dictators.

This training toward independent judgment should begin even in the
first year of school. If Johnny raises his hand in beginning reading
to state that Mary said _a_ for _the_, the teacher need not either
accept or reject the criticism. She may merely turn to the whole class
and ask whether that is a helpful correction to make. A similar course
may be pursued with many corrections and suggestions in later years.
In this way a class sense of what is fitting or valuable in the way of
neglect can be developed.

It should be remembered, however, that children cannot judge the worth
of details without a basis of some sort. Unless, therefore, they
helplessly rely upon the direction of the teacher in each case, they
must be taught what the reading or other subject is for. They must
gradually get a fair idea, for instance, of what good reading is, and
realize that it includes pleasant tones, a careful grouping of words,
much inflection of voice, and clear enunciation of final consonants.
As they become acquainted with this standard in reading, they will
readily learn to overlook such details as have little to do with its

It is true that it saves much time for the teacher herself to
determine what shall or shall not receive attention, or at least for
her to accept or reject a child's suggestion dogmatically, rather than
to allow him or the whole class to pass upon its worth. Also, the
constant demand for "more facts" tempts teachers to save time in this
way. But again, it behooves the teacher as well as the pupil to use
judgment, and not sacrifice one of the main objects of an education in
order to save some time.

_2. Class study of printed articles._

Children who use reference works might now and then study an
encyclopedic article together merely to see what parts should be
slighted. When looking for a certain fact they will discover, from the
way the paragraphs begin, that one paragraph after another can be
discarded without being read in full. In the same spirit newspapers
might be studied by the older children, to determine from the headings
what articles need not be read at all, what ones in a cursory manner,
and what ones carefully, if any. Similar study of some magazines might
be in place. It is a duty of the school thus to accustom pupils to
proper methods of reading common kinds of printed matter.

_3. Reduction of reproductions._

Pupils might occasionally be asked to reproduce a story or any other
line of thought as fully as they wish. Suppose that it occupies six
pages. Then they might be requested to reduce it to three pages, and
perhaps, finally, to one page, eliminating each time what is of least
importance. Such an exercise compels a very careful study of relative

_4. Holding and carrying a point._

Having decided upon a definite problem for consideration, all grades
of learners might be held responsible for detecting beginning
wanderings of thought. They might accustom themselves to the
responsibility of rising to a point of order at such times, stating
the main question and asking the suspected person to show the
relevancy of his remarks. There is no reason why the teacher should
carry this responsibility alone; indeed, it is an imposition on the
children, checking their growth in judgment and power of initiative.

Again, at times students in all grades might be allowed full freedom,
in order to show how quickly they will engage in discussion, and even
become excited, with no definite question before them. They may not
realize their error, however, until asked to state what they are
considering. It should be remembered that the question at issue may be
as much neglected in the reading of books as in participation in
discussion; on this account the method of reading might be tested in a
similar manner.

_5. Encouragement of different rates of reading._

Finally, varying rates of reading should be encouraged, according to
the nature of the subject matter. While some books should be perused
very slowly and thoughtfully, others should be covered as rapidly as
possible. In the case of many novels, for instance, the ideas are so
simple that they can be comprehended as rapidly as the words can be

Many persons, however, can read only as fast as they can pronounce the
words. They follow an established series of associations: first, the
word is observed; this image calls up its sound; the sound then
recalls the meaning. Thus the order is _sight, sound, meaning._
That is a roundabout way of arriving at the meaning of a page and is
usually learned in childhood. It explains why many an educated adult
can read very little faster silently than aloud.

Some adults read fast simply by skimming over the less important
parts, which is often justified. Some, however, save time by
associating the form of a word directly with its meaning, leaving the
sound out of consideration. Then by running the eye along rapidly they
double and treble the ordinary rate of advance. It is said that Lord
Macaulay read silently about as rapidly as a person ordinarily thumbs
the pages; and he must have seen the individual words, because his
remarkable memory often enabled him to reproduce the text verbatim.
The slow-reading adult can, by practice, learn to take in a whole line
or more almost at a glance, in place of three or four words, and can
thus increase his rate of advance. But habit is so powerful that the
rapid eye-movement necessary in rapid reading, together with the
direct association of the form of a word with its meaning, should be
learned in childhood. To this end, children should often be timed in
their reading, being allowed only a few seconds or minutes to cover a
certain amount. Some exercises might be given them, too, so as to
accustom them to taking in a considerable number of words at a glance.

Meanwhile, however, pains should be taken to avoid the impression that
rapid reading is always in place. Matter that requires much
reflection, like the Bible for example, may well be read slowly. It is
not merely rapid reading, but varying rates according to need, that
the teacher should encourage.

There is no expectation that children will learn to handle books as
Carlyle did. But they should be guided by the same general principles,
and should form practical acquaintance with these principles while in
school. Ordinarily there is a striking contrast between the use of
books in school and outside, and the different rates of reading in the
two places afford a striking illustration. Text in school is taken up
in a gingerly fashion, scarcely enough of it being assigned for one
lesson to get the child interested. Then this is reviewed over and
over until any interest that may originally have been excited is long
since destroyed. Thoroughness is aimed at, at the expense of life. In
independent reading outside of school the opposite course is pursued.
In the reaction from the school influence children revel in their
freedom to do the things that their teachers forbid, and they
accordingly go racing through their volumes.

Both methods are at fault. The school handling of books is intolerably
slow; that outside is likely to be too rapid. In general, the method
of using books in school should more closely resemble that desired
elsewhere. The school method is the first to be reformed. It is seldom
wise to be so thorough in the treatment of a text as to kill it for
the learner. As a rule longer textbook lessons should be assigned in
the elementary school, and less attention should be given to the minor
facts. Then, if necessary, the same general field should be covered
from another point of view, through another text. This change of
method is already largely realized in our beginning reading, and
partly realized in several other subjects.



We have already seen that proper study places much responsibility upon
the student. Instead of allowing him to be an aimless collector of
facts, it requires him to discover specific purposes that the facts
may serve. With such purposes in mind he must supplement authors'
statements in numerous ways, and also pass judgment on their relative
values. This all requires much aggressiveness.

_The problem here._

A problem now confronts us that suggests even greater aggressiveness.
The statements that one hears or finds in print are often somewhat
exaggerated, or distorted, or grossly incorrect, or they may be
entirely true. Who is to pass judgment upon their quality? Has the
young student any proper basis for carrying that responsibility?

_Pressing nature of this problem.
1. In reading newspapers and magazines._

This problem is forced upon one when reading newspapers, particularly
during political campaigns. One paper lauds a candidate as a great
administrator, while another condemns him as a doctrinaire. One
advocates protective tariff and the gold standard, while another urges
revenue tariff only and free silver. Among the news columns one
article predicts war, while another discerns signs of peace. Russia is
at one time pictured as moving fast toward complete anarchy, while at
another time she is shown to be making important political advances.
The Japanese are praised for their high standards of life, and are
again condemned for their immorality. Magazine articles show
disagreements just as striking. Public men, political policies,
corporations, and religious beliefs are approved or condemned
according to the individual writer. What, then, is the proper attitude
for the reader? Is he to regard one authority as about as good as
another, or is he himself to distinguish among them and judge each
according to the evidence that is offered?

_2. In the use of books._

D'Aubigne's _History of the Reformation_ is an extremely interesting
work; but it treats the Reformation from the Protestant view-point,
and is on that account unacceptable to Catholics. The history of our
Civil War presents one series of facts when written by a northerner; a
very different series when written by a southerner; and a still
different one when written by an Englishman. Shall the student of
either of these periods adopt the views of the author that he happens
to be reading? Or shall he assume a view-point of his own? Or shall he
do neither?

Carlyle and Ruskin indulge in much exaggeration, relying on striking
statements for increased effect. Shakespeare possibly intended to
present an exaggerated type of the Jew in the character of Shylock.
Shall the student recognize exaggeration as such? Or shall he take all
statements literally? Or shall he avoid doing either, preserving an
inactive mind?

In his work on _Education_, Herbert Spencer states that "acquirement
of every kind has two values--value as knowledge and value as
discipline. Besides its use for guidance in conduct, the acquisition
of each order of facts has also its use as mental exercise." Many
students of education would assert that one very important value of
knowledge is here overlooked, _i. e._, its power to inspire and
energize, a value that literature possesses to a high degree. Assuming
that they are correct, dare the young student pass such a criticism?
Or would such a critical attitude on his part toward a high authority
be impertinent?

The first paragraph in Rousseau's _Emile_ runs as follows: "Coming
from the hand of the Author of all things, everything is good;
in the hands of man everything degenerates. Man obliges one soil to
nourish the productions of another, one tree to bear the fruits of
another; he mingles and confounds climates, elements, seasons; he
mutilates his dog, his horse, his slave. He overturns everything,
disfigures everything; he loves deformity, monsters; he desires that
nothing should be as Nature made it, not even man himself. To please
him man must be broken in like a horse; man must be adapted to man's
own fashion, like a tree in his garden."

At the bottom of the first page of the translation of _Emile_ by
Miss Worthington is a note by Jules Steeg, Depute, Paris, bearing on
the above first paragraph and running as follows: "It is useless to
enlarge upon the absurdity of this theory, and upon the flagrant
contradiction into which Rousseau allows himself to fall. If he is
right, man ought to be left without education, and the earth without
cultivation. This would not be even the savage state. But want of
space forbids us to pause at each like statement of our author, who at
once busies himself in nullifying it." Opposing statements like these
are certainly enough to place the student in a dilemma.

_Proper attitude of the student toward authorities._

Here are contradictions in political and religious beliefs and news
items; very different interpretations of historical events;
exaggerations bordering on misrepresentations; and evident omissions
and absurdities on the part of educational philosophers. The weather
bureau represents Old Reliability herself, in comparison with authors.
What attitude shall the adult student assume toward such contradictory
and faulty statements? Shall he regard himself as only a follower,
taking each presentation of thought at its face value, sitting humbly
at the feet of supposed specialists, and carefully preserving in
memory as many of their principal opinions and conclusions as
possible? Shall he assume the position of a mere receiver and

That is manifestly impossible, for that would mean an ego divided a
thousand times. It would prevent the final using of knowledge by the
learner, instead of directing its use wisely; for the many opposing
ideas and cross purposes would nullify one another. Besides that, wise
application requires far more than a good memory as a guide, since
memory takes no account of the adaptations always required by new

Whether he likes it or not, the student cannot escape the
responsibility of determining for himself the fairness and general
reliability of the newspapers and magazines that he reads; he must
expect bias in historians, and must measure the extent of it as well
as he can by studying their biographies and by observing their care in
regard to data and logic; he must scrutinize very critically the ideas
of the world's greatest essayists and dramatists. If a philosopher,
like Rousseau, offers brilliant truths on one page, and equally
brilliant perversions of truth on the next page, the student must
ponder often and long in order to keep his bearings; and if footnotes
attempt to point out some of these absurdities, he must decide for
himself whether Rousseau or the commentator shows the superior wisdom.
"Above all," says Koopman, "he [the student] must make sure how far he
can trust the author." [Footnote: Koopman, _The Mastery of Books_, p.

"Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for
granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to _weigh_ and
_consider_," says Bacon. [Footnote: Bacon's _Essays Of Studies_.]

Every book we read may be made a round in the ever-lengthening ladder
by which we climb to knowledge and to that temperance and serenity of
mind which, as it is the ripest fruit of wisdom, is also the sweetest.
But this can only be if we read such books as make us think, and read
them in such a way as helps them to do so, that is, _by endeavoring
to judge them_, and thus to make them an exercise rather than a
relaxation of the mind. Desultory reading except as conscious pastime,
hebetates the brain and slackens the bow string of Will. [Footnote:
Lowell, _Books and Libraries._]

The student, therefore, must set himself up as judge of whatever ideas
appear before him. They are up for trial on their soundness and worth;
he must uncover their merits and defects, and pass judgment on their
general value. If he is hasty and careless, he suffers the penalty of
bad judgment; and if he refrains from judging at all, he becomes one
who "does not know his own mind," a weakling.

                            Who reads
     Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
     A spirit and judgment equal or superior
     Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
     Deep versed in books and shallow in himself.
  [Footnote: Milton, _Paradise Regained_, Book 4, line 322.]

_The necessity of this attitude in the acceptance as well as in the
rejection of ideas._

The need of such an attitude may be granted when the rejection of
ideas is necessary. But there are many works that have been tried for
ages and found undoubtedly excellent. There are many men, also, who
are acknowledged authorities in their specialties. In the case of such
books and men, where little if any negative criticism is to be
expected, cannot the student set out merely to enjoy the merits and
not bother about the defects? Can he not, therefore, abandon the
critical attitude and accept outright what is offered?

That depends on how much is involved in real acceptance. A wise young
woman who rejects a suitor does so for reasons of some sort; her
reasons should certainly not be less clear if she accepts him; on the
contrary, they are more likely to have been investigated with care.
The rejection of a lover is, then, no more positive thing, involves no
more intelligence and emotion, than his acceptance.

Again, a competent supervisor of instruction who accepts as good some
recitation that he has observed, does so on the basis of specific
points of merit that he has seen. Otherwise his acceptance is only
flattery and is unacceptable to an earnest teacher. So, in general,
the acceptance of any line of thought or action presupposes a
consciousness of certain merits. Intelligent acceptance is thoughtful
or critical.

There is a common idea that acceptance is far more easy and far less
aggressive than negative criticism. The contrary, however, is probably
true. The former idea is due to the fact that much acceptance, as of
political and religious doctrine, for example, is only nominal or
verbal; it is not intelligent or critical enough to be genuine. Any
one can find fault, it is often declared; but the recognition of merit
requires special insight. Rejection, therefore, is no more aggressive
or positive than acceptance; and if one of these calls for a more
critical attitude and more mental energy than the other, it is
probably the latter.

_Relation of the critical attitude to sympathy and respect._

What is the relation of this critical attitude to sympathy for an
author? One of the essential conditions in the proper study of a book
is that it be approached with an open, sympathetic mind. One must look
at the world through the author's eyes in order to understand and
appreciate what he says, and that is possible only when one feels high
respect for him and is in close sympathy with him. To this end, it may
be well at times for the student to annihilate his own personality, as
Ruskin advises, so as to lose himself in another's thought.

If the critical attitude were incompatible with such respect and
sympathy, its value might well be questioned. But that is not the
case. A sensible parent who is in closest sympathy with a child finds
no great difficulty in seeing its defects and even in administering
punishment for them. There are parents and teachers who cannot thus
combine real sympathy with the critical attitude; but they are too
weak and foolish to rear children. Helpful friendships among adults,
also, are not based upon blind admiration; they presuppose ability to
discern faults and even courage now and then to mention them.

One cannot be a true scholar without making a similar combination. The
unquestioning frame of mind that allows a sympathetic approach to an
author marks one stage in study; but this must be followed by the
critical attitude before the study is complete. That the two attitudes
are not incompatible is well stated by Porter in the following words:
"We should read with an independent judgment and a critical spirit. It
does not follow, because we should treat an author with confidence and
respect, that we are to accept all his opinions and may not revise his
conclusions and arguments by our own. Indeed, we shall best evince our
respect for his thoughts by subjecting them to our own revision."
[Footnote: Noah Porter, _Books and Reading_, p. 52.]

_How daily life requires similar independence of judgment._

While the demand thus made upon the scholar seems great, there is
nothing surprising about it; for the scholar's relation to an author
is substantially the same as that of any adult to other persons with
whom he has dealings. If you go to a store to purchase a pair of
rubbers, you cannot surrender yourself complacently to any clerk who
happens to wait upon you. He is very likely to be satisfied to sell
you rubbers that are too long or too short, too wide or too narrow, or
at least not of the shape of your shoes. Or he may want to sell you
storm rubbers when you prefer low ones. Unless, therefore, you carry a
standard in mind and reject whatever fails to meet it, you are very
likely to buy rubbers that won't be satisfactory. The same is true if
you go to a tailor for clothing; unless you know him to be unusually
reliable, it is not enough for him to tell you that a coat fits; you
must test the statement by your own observation.

Some years ago a house that I occupied in New York City became
infested with rats, and, wanting to reach the kitchen from the cellar,
they gnawed an inch hole through a lead drain pipe from the laundry
tubs, that lay in their way. The hole was behind a cupboard in the
kitchen, very close to the wall, and not easy to reach. If clean
clothing was to be had, the pipe had to be fixed; but when a plumber
was called in, he stated that a carpenter would be needed to remove
the cupboard, and again to replace it after the work was completed.
The pipe having the hole, he added, would need to be taken out, and,
as it was one arm of a larger pipe that had two other branches, the
pipe with the three arms would have to be removed and another put in
its place. The entire work was estimated to cost about fifteen

As that seemed a large amount to invest in a rat hole, another plumber
was consulted; but he made substantially the same report. Still not
being satisfied, I went to a hardware store and asked, "Have you a man
who can solder a thin metal plate over a small hole in a lead pipe?
The hole is about an inch in diameter and somewhat difficult to reach;
but the work can be done by any one who knows his business." The
merchant said that he had such a man. The man was sent over; he did
the work in a few minutes, and the bill was seventy-five cents.

Plumbers are probably as honest and capable in their lines as most
classes of workmen; but many persons have learned to their sorrow not
to place themselves as clay in their hands.

A man who builds a house should keep more than half an eye on his
architect, otherwise the house is likely to cause numerous lifelong
regrets. Even one's physician is not to be implicitly obeyed on all
occasions. If a patient knows that quinine acts as a poison upon him,
as it does upon some persons, he must refuse to take it. Also, if a
physician gives too much medicine, as physicians have been known to
do, one must discover the fact for himself, or his alimentary canal
may suffer. Such men are merely types of the many persons who surround
us and help us to live; we must be judges of the conduct of each of
them toward us, if we wish to be healthy and happy.

Must we, then, pass upon everything; and is no person to be fully
trusted? How can any one find time for the exercise of so much wisdom?
And what are specialists for?

Certainly many, many things must be taken for granted. When you board
a train, you cannot make sure that the trainmen are all qualified for
their positions and that all parts of the train and of the track are
in proper condition. If, however, you choose a poorly managed road, in
place of a well-managed one, you are more likely to be killed on the
journey. In other words, while many things must be assumed, the
responsibility of determining what they shall be rests with you, and
you suffer the penalty of any bad selection. Your own judgment is
still your guide.

Many persons must likewise be trusted. But who shall they be, and to
what extent? The objects of choice have now been merely shifted from
things to human beings, and independent judgment must still be
exercised the same as before. The difficulty is fully as great, too.
Says Holmes, "We have all to assume a standard of judgment in our own
minds, either of things or persons. A man who is willing to take
another's opinion has to exercise his judgment in the choice of whom
to follow, which is often as nice a matter as to judge of things for
one's self." [Footnote: Holmes, _Autocrat of the Breakfast Table._]

Reasons for the use of independent judgment may be found in lack of
knowledge on the part of others, or of skill, or of judgment, or of
energy, or of honesty. But there is a more fundamental reason than
either incompetence or dishonesty, and it is found in the peculiar
circumstances of each person. The point of view of an architect is not
the same as that of the owner of a house. Every one hundred dollars
added to the cost of a building rejoices the architect's heart because
it increases his income. On the other hand, every hundred dollars thus
added tends to produce depression in the owner's mind. Similarly, the
point of view of any specialist or friend is different from yours; it
can never be fully your own. Just because no one can look at your
affairs from your own point of view, no one is fully qualified to
judge them for you, and you must rely upon yourself.

The people with whom we trade, therefore, the specialists and friends
to whom we go, like the authors that the student consults, are all
related to us merely as advisers. No one of them is fitted to tell us
exactly what to do, and the proper attitude toward them all is that of
friendly suspicion.

_Greatness of each person's responsibility for judging._

This conception of each person's relation to ideas and to the world at
large places his judgment on a high plane. Whether he will or not,
every man is intellectually a sovereign whose own judgment in the
decision of all his affairs is his court of last resort. This is a
grave responsibility, indeed; and it is no wonder that many shrink
from it. Yet what better state can be conceived? This responsibility
proves the dignity of manhood; it is the price of being a man. Fairly
good judgment, exercised independently of everybody, is one essential
condition of self-direction and of leadership of others. The
importance of good judgment is often emphasized; and the reason for it
is here evident, since it must guide us at every turn. The reason for
education of judgment is also evident. Every person is bound to make
many mistakes; but he will make far fewer when his ability to judge
has been properly trained. The utter inadequacy of instruction that
aims mainly at acquisition of facts is likewise evident; for the
exercise of judgment involves the use or adaptation of knowledge to
particular conditions, and the mere possession of facts bears little
relation to this ability.

_The basis that every student has for judging worth._

It may seem presumptuous for a young student of education to pass
judgment upon the greatest writers on education that the world has
produced, such as Spencer and Rousseau. Certainly the opinions of such
great men are far more valuable and reliable, on the whole, than those
of an immature student. The architect's knowledge of building,
likewise, is superior to that or a novice in that line. Granted,
therefore, that no one person is in a position to judge for another,
what right, what basis has this other, particularly the inexperienced
person, to judge any and every sort of affairs for himself? He has
basis enough. Speaking of the value of expert knowledge, Aristotle
says: "Moreover, there are some artists whose works are judged of
solely, or in the best manner, not by themselves but by those who do
not possess the art; for example, the knowledge of the house is not
limited to the builder; the user, or, in other words, the master of
the house will even be a better judge than the builder, just as the
pilot will judge better of a rudder than the carpenter, and the guest
will judge better of a feast than the cook." [Footnote: Aristotle,
_Politics_ (Jowett), p. 88.] The reason that the non-expert can thus
sometimes even surpass the expert himself in judging of the latter's
work is found in the fact that the non-expert as well as the
specialist has had much valuable experience bearing on the
specialist's line.

A very important truth is here suggested concerning the student.
Nothing that one is fitted to study is wholly new or strange to him.
Any person must have had experiences that parallel an author's thought
in order to understand that author. For, according to the principle of
apperception, intimately related past experience is the sole basis for
the comprehension of new facts.

Values are no newer or stranger to the student than other phases of
experience. The student's related past, therefore, furnishes as good a
basis for judging soundness or worth as it does for getting at
meanings. When, for instance, he reads Spencer's statement that
"acquisition of every kind has two values,--value as knowledge and
value as discipline"--he can verify each use out of his own life. He
can determine for himself that the assertion holds. On the other hand,
he can quite likely recall how he has sometimes been aroused and
stirred to new effort by things that he has read; and he may, in
consequence, question whether Spencer has not here overlooked one
great value of knowledge. Again, when the student is told by Rousseau
that "in the hands of man everything degenerates," he can, no doubt,
justify the assertion to some extent by recalling observed instances
of such degeneration. But, in addition, when he recalls what he has
observed and read about the wonderful advance made by man toward a
higher civilization, and realizes that Rousseau is denying that there
has been an advance, he is in a position to consider whether Rousseau
is mainly in the right or mainly in the wrong.

It is true that the student may be wrong in his conclusions; also
that, even though he be often right, he may become a confirmed fault-
finder. But that is not discouraging, for he is surrounded with
dangers. The essential fact remains that, just as his past related
experience furnishes a fair basis for understanding the meaning of
what he hears and reads, so, also, it furnishes a fair basis for
estimating its value.


_A conception of child nature that denies such ability._

Many persons who agree to the necessity of independent judgment on the
part of adults may demur at the idea of placing similar responsibility
upon children. Are not children normally uncritical and imitative or
passive? they say. And if we teach them to judge and criticise freely,
are they not very likely to develop priggishness that will result in
immodesty and disrespect for others? "Memory," says John Henry Newman,
"is one of the first developed of the mental faculties; a boy's
business, when he goes to school, is to _learn_, that is, to store up
things in his memory. For some years his intellect is little more than
an instrument for taking in facts, or a receptacle for storing them;
he welcomes them as fast as they come to him; he lives on what is
without; he has his eyes ever about him; he has a lively
susceptibility of impressions; he imbibes information of every kind;
and little does he make his own in the true sense of the word, living
rather upon his neighbors all around him. He has opinions, religious,
political, literary, and, for a boy, is very positive in them and sure
about them; but he gets them from his schoolfellows, or his masters,
or his parents, as the case may be. Such as he is in his other
relations, such also is he in his school exercises; his mind is
observant, sharp, ready, retentive; he is almost _passive_ in the
acquisition of knowledge. I say this is no disparagement of the idea
of a clever boy. Geography, chronology, history, language, natural
history, he heaps up the matter of these studies as treasures for a
future day. It is the seven years of plenty with him; he gathers in by
handfuls, like the Egyptians, without counting; and though, as time
goes on, there is exercise for his argumentative powers in the
elements of mathematics, and for his taste in the poets and orators,
still while at school, or at least till quite the last years of his
time, he _acquires and little more;_ and when he is leaving for
the university he is mainly the creature of foreign influences and
circumstances, and made up of accidents, homogeneous or not as the
case may be." [Footnote: John Henry Newman, _Scope and Nature of
University Education,_ Discourse V.]

This view of childhood is somewhat common; and according to it
children are almost exclusively _receptive,_ any active exercise
of judgment scarcely beginning before college entrance.

_Extent of such ability.
1. as evidenced by individual examples of children's judgments._

Let us see to what extent this view holds when examined in the light
of children's actual conduct. A first-grade pupil who had attended the
kindergarten the previous year remarked to his former kindergarten
teacher, "I wish I was back in the kindergarten." "Why?" said the
kindergartner. "Because," said he, "we did _hard_ things in the
kindergarten last year." Then he added confidentially, "You know our
teacher was in the fourth grade last year. She used to come in to see
us when we were playing, and she thinks we can't do anything else.
Why, the things she gives us to do are _dead easy._" His teacher
herself afterward admitted that his criticism was just.

A small boy, being asked if he went to Sunday school, replied "Yes."
"Have you a good teacher?" was the next question; to which came the
response, "Yes, pretty good; good for a Sunday school. She would not
be much good for day school." Wasn't he probably right?

A five-year-old boy was taken to Sunday school for the first time by
his nurse. There the chief topic of instruction happened to be eternal
punishment. On the way home he was not altogether good, and the nurse,
in the spirit of the day's lesson, assured him that he would go to the
bad place when he died, and would burn there always. When he entered
the house he hurried, sobbing, to his mother and declared vehemently:
"Nurse says I'll go to the bad place when I die, and that I'll burn
there always. I _won't_ burn always; I know I won't! I may burn a
little bit. But I'm bad only part of the time; I am good part of the
time; and I _know_ I won't burn always." His reasoning on theology was
as sound as that of many a preacher.

I was standing near a second-year class in reading one day when I
overheard a boy say "Nonsense!" to himself, after reading a section. I
agreed with him too fully to offer any reproof.

An eight-year-old girl said to her mother, "May I iron my apron? I
ironed a pillowcase." "Did Sarah [the maid] say that you ironed it
well?" asked the mother. "No, she didn't say anything," was the
response. "But I know that I ironed it well." Is that an entirely
passive attitude?

Rebecca had spent six years in the public schools of two large cities
when she entered the seventh grade of the State Normal School. She had
been called a "quiet child," "nervous" and "timid," by different
teachers. After a very few days in the new school, however, she
volunteered this expression of her thoughts: "I didn't think the
Normal School would be anything like that. It's very different from
the public schools. There only the teacher has opinions and she does
all the talking; but in the Normal School the children can have
opinions, and they can express them, and I like it."

Any one who has had close contact with children knows that they have a
remarkably keen sense of the justice or injustice of punishments
inflicted upon them. As a rule, I would rather trust their judgment of
their teachers than their parents' judgment, although it is true that
parents form such judgment largely from hearing remarks from their
children. Children are reasonably reliable, also, in judging one
another's conduct, which they are prone to do.

Such facts as these indicate that it is quite natural for children--even
very young ones--to pass judgment of some kind on things about them,
and that their judgments are fairly sound. They are hardly to be
called merely passive receivers of ideas, mildly agreeing with the
people about them.

_2. As evidenced by the requirements of the school._

The school plainly assumes the presence of this ability by the
requirements that it makes of children. One of the common questions in
the combination of forms and colors, even in the kindergarten, is,
"How do you like that?" In instruction in fine art throughout the
grades their judgment as to what is most beautiful is continually
appealed to.

The judging of one another's compositions and other school products is
a common task for pupils. In connection with fairy tales six-year-olds
are frequently asked what they think of the story. Many say, "It is
beautiful"; but now and then a bold spirit declares, "I don't like

Children are expected to judge the quality of literature,
distinguishing with ease between what is literal and what is
imaginative, or figurative, or humorous. When they read that the rope
with which the powerful Fenris-Wolf was bound was "made out of such
things as the sound of a cat's footsteps, the roots of the mountains,
the breath of a fish and the sinews of a bear, and nothing could break
it," [Footnote: Hamilton Mabie's _Norse Myths,_ p. 166.] they are
not deceived; they only smile. Now and then they make mistakes; but in
general such stories as _Through the Looking-Glass_ and the "Uncle
Remus" stories do not overtax their power to interpret conditions.

What literature or history is there for children that omits the
passing of moral judgments? Cinderella is approved of for her
goodness, William Tell for his independence, Columbus for his
boldness; Cinderella's sisters are condemned for their selfishness,
and Gessler for his meanness. Without such exercise of judgment these
two studies would miss one of their main benefits. The data that must
be collected in nature study and history for the proof of statements
give much practice in the weighing of evidence; and the self-
government that is now so common, in various degrees, in good schools
is supposed to be based upon a reasonable ability to weigh out
justice. Thus the method both of instruction and of government in our
better schools presupposes the ability on the part of pupils to judge
worth; and the better teachers have considered it so important that
they have constantly striven to develop it through instruction, just
as sensible parents have placed upon their children some of the
responsibility of buying their own clothing, doing the marketing, and
planning work at home, in order to cultivate the power to make wise
choice. If the ability to judge were really wanting in children, our
supposedly best methods of teaching and governing them would need to
be abandoned.

_3. As evidenced by requirements of child life._

The best proof that children possess this ability is that they can
scarcely get on without it. Several years ago, when I reached
Indianapolis on a journey, I gave my bag to a boy ten or eleven years
of age to carry to my hotel. While we were walking along together
another boy stopped him and drew him to one side. I observed that they
were having a serious conversation, and when we soon proceeded further
I inquired what the trouble was. "That boy," said he, "wants me to
divvy up with him." "What do you mean by that?" said I. "He wants me
to give him half of the money that I am to get from you for carrying
this bag," was the reply. "But," I responded indignantly, "he has not
helped you at all. Why, then, should he receive anything?" "He
shouldn't," came the answer; "but he belongs to a crowd of fellows,
and he told me that if I didn't divvy up with them they would pound
the life out of me." I pondered for some time, but I gave no advice.
What advice should have been given?

This is a striking ease; but it only illustrates very forcibly that
children are not merely sleeping, and eating what is given to them,
like cattle and sheep. Like adults they are surrounded with human
beings and are leading moral lives. At home, in school, on the street,
a hundred times a day they must "size up" people and situations and
decide what is best to do. If they are weak in such decisions, they
are regarded as weak in general; and if very weak, other persons must
assume responsibility for them and "tote" them through life. On the
other hand, if they are strong, they are classed as sensible persons,
and they "get on" well. Children distinguish themselves as balanced
and sensible, just as adults do, simply because they are wise in
measuring values.

Those persons who regard childhood as almost solely a period for
receiving knowledge, seem to think that active life really begins only
when one becomes of age. The fact is, it begins from eighteen to
twenty-one years sooner than that; and throughout all those earlier
years one has nearly as great a variety of trials, and trials usually
of greater intensity for the moment, than adults have. In the midst of
so much need, it would be strange, indeed, if one were endowed with no
power, called judgment, to cope with difficult situations, if one had
only the power to collect facts. That would leave us too helpless; it
certainly would not be adaptation to environment, or normal evolution.

In conclusion, therefore, those who deny a fair degree of sound
judgment to children deny what seems a marked natural tendency of
childhood; they pass a sweeping criticism upon what is now supposed to
be the best method of instructing and governing children; and,
finally, they deny to the child the one power that can make his
knowledge usable and insure his adaptation to his environment. Self-
reliance, which parents and teachers strive for so much, becomes then
impossible among children, for self-reliance is nothing more than
independent direction of self, made possible by power to judge
conditions. Certainly most persons are unwilling to take this position
in regard to the nature of childhood. They will agree that a twelve-
year-old boy, sitting for an hour in the presence of the President of
the United States and hearing him converse freely, without forming
judgments about him, and many fairly accurate ones too, would be an

_Danger of priggishness._

What about the threatened priggishness and related evils that may
result when the responsibility for passing judgment frequently is laid
upon children? Certainly a modest sense of one's own merit and proper
respect for others are highly desirable qualities. These qualities,
however, are not greatly endangered by the exercise of intellectual
independence, for it is little related to immodesty and impertinence.

A few years ago when many distinguished scientists celebrated in
Berlin the discovery of the Roentgen rays, Mr. Roentgen himself was
not present. Although he had possessed boldness enough to enlarge the
confines of knowledge, he lacked the courage to face the men who had
met to do him honor, and he telegraphed his regrets. St. Paul,
Erasmus, and Melanchthon were, intellectually, among the most
independent of men; but St. Paul possessed the humility of the true
Christian, and both Erasmus and Melanchthon were extremely modest.
Pestalozzi was once sent by his government as a member of a commission
to interview Napoleon. On his return from Paris he was asked whether
he saw Napoleon. "No," said he, "I did not see Napoleon, and Napoleon
did not see me." Recognizing the greatness of a real educator, he took
away the breath of his friends by ranking himself alongside Napoleon
as a truly great man. Yet he was one of the most modest, childlike men
that the world has ever known. These examples show that the keenest,
boldest of analysts and critics may yet be the humblest of men.

Self-reliance is the more common name for similar independence among
children; and it is no more nearly related to priggishness in their
case than in the case of adults. The five-year-old child will often
reject statements from his parents, even though he have the greatest
respect and love for them. It is only natural for him to do so when
assertions that he hears do not tally with his own experience; and he
will retain such boldness throughout life unless made subservient by
bad education.

There is some danger, however, that the cultivation of this
independence may make one a chronic fault-finder. It should not be
forgotten, therefore, that judging means approving as well as
condemning, and in case of children probably much more of the former
than of the latter. In addition, care should be taken that children
shall pass judgment only on matters lying fairly within their
experience, and shall recognize the need, too, of giving good reasons
for their conclusions. If these precautions be taken, the danger of
priggishness is reduced to the minimum. What danger remains can afford
to be risked; for independent judgment is the very basis of
scholarship among adults, and mental submissiveness in childhood is
not the best preparation for it.


_1. Placing responsibility upon children at school._

Responsibilities that require exercise of judgment should be placed
upon children throughout the school, from the kindergarten on.
Scarcely a recitation need pass without opportunities of this kind.
For example, children can determine the correctness of answers to
questions put in class, can weigh the relative merits and the
efficiency of tasks performed, can propose suitable ways of
illustrating topics, such as lumbering, irrigation, mining, etc. The
wisdom of plans for preserving order in the school, for decorating the
building, and for improving the school in other respects can also be
submitted to their judgment. It is by the exercise of judgment in many
ways that young people will become judicious in numerous directions.
It is not difficult for any teacher to do some work of this kind, but
it is difficult to be consistent in it. Many teachers who are zealous
in cultivating independent judgment a part of the time, undermine this
influence at other times by arbitrary decisions or by a personality so
overpowering that it allows no free scope to the child's personality.

_2. Study of responsibilities borne at home._

Some study of the responsibilities that different children bear at
home may prove very profitable. While some carry much responsibility
there, others are given no option as to when they shall start to
school each day, or how they shall dress, or who shall buy their
clothes, or how they shall spend money. Thus they are allowed no
opportunity to decide things for themselves or to develop independent
judgment. Interviews with individual parents, and parents' meetings,
may prove very fruitful along this line.

_3. Consideration of the use to be made of advice._

In order to teach the nature of self-reliance and the scope of its
exercise, the use to be made of the advice of friends should be a
topic for occasional discussion. Many a young man and woman hesitates
to ask the advice of others for fear that they may be offended if the
advice given is not followed. They are justified, too, for many
persons are offended in this way. The propriety of rejecting advice
should be far more generally understood than it is. Then children, as
well as young men and women, would seek it much oftener, to their
lasting benefit.

_4. Examples of combinations of modesty with independence._

Since modesty should be cultivated along with independent judgment,
examples of distinguished men and women who have combined these two
qualities should now and then be considered.

_5. Observation of habits of pupils in use of judgment._

It is well to mark out for special attention such pupils as seem to be
untrue to their own experience in judging, or such as seem to lack the
energy to use it as a basis of judgment. For example, many eleven- and
twelve-year-old children in their study of _Excelsior_ feel that
the young man very rashly exposed himself and merited his death. Yet
some of these will suppress this judgment, and even praise him as a
noble youth, in order to please their teacher, or because they think
that that is what they _ought_ to say. They lack the boldness to
be honest with themselves.

Again, very many young people fail to think far enough to "weigh and
consider." They stop short with the concrete narrative, failing to
judge whether the story is reasonable, whether the characters are
representative, whether the moral is sound, etc. Thus they omit a
portion of the thinking that should be expected of them. Whether they
are wanting in mental energy or do not realize that this is one of the
important parts of study, they should be taken in hand. Right habits
of mind are even more important than knowledge.

_6. Reports of merits of printed matter, with discussion._

As one means of overcoming the defect just mentioned, different
children, or different committees of a class, might examine the same
newspapers, magazines, articles in reference books, etc., and then
report on their merits independently of one another, giving their
reasons. The discussions that would be likely to follow as the result
of disagreements would be of the highest value.



"All the intellectual value for us of a state of mind depends on our
after-memory of it," says Professor James. [Footnote: William James's
_Psychology,_ Vol. I, p. 644.]

_Importance of memory._

In other words, there would be little object importance in reading, or
reflection, or travel, or in experience in general, if such experience
could not later be recalled so as to be further enjoyed and used. Want
of reference thus far to memory does not, therefore, signify any lack
of appreciation of its worth. No time is likely to come when a low
estimate will be placed upon memory.

_Usual prominence of memorizing as a factor in study, and the result._

How prominent memorizing should be, however, is a question of great

The four factors of study that have now been considered are the
finding of specific aims, the supplementing of the thought of authors,
the organizing of ideas, and the judging of their general worth. These
four activities together constitute a large part of what is called
_thinking._ Memorizing--meaning thereby, in contrast to thinking,
the conscious effort to impress ideas upon the mind so that they can
be reproduced--has usually been a more prominent part of study than
all these four combined. The Jesuits, for example, who were leaders in
education for two hundred years, made repetition "the mother of
studies," and it is still so prominent, even among adults, that the
average student regards memorizing as the nearest synonym for the term
studying. Repetition, or drill, however, is far from an inspiring kind
of employment. It involves nothing new or refreshing; it is mere
hammering, that makes no claim upon involuntary attention. When it is
so prominent, therefore, it stultifies the mind, starving and
discouraging the student and defeating the main purpose of study.

_Reasons for such prominence._

If the work of memorizing is so uninteresting and even injurious, why
is it made so prominent? There are probably numerous reasons; but only
three will here be considered.

In the first place, memorizing is more superficial than real thinking,
and people generally prefer to be somewhat superficial and mechanical.
It takes energy to dig into things, and, being rather lazy, we are
very often content to remain on the outside of them. Children show in
many little ways how natural it is to be mechanical. For instance,
rather than think the ideas _adverb_ and _present active participle,_
they will recognize words ending in _ly_ as adverbs, and those ending
in _ing_ as present active participles. They will class words as
prepositions or conjunctions by memorizing the entire list of each,
rather than by thinking the relations that these parts of speech
express. Young men and women, likewise, will memorize demonstrations
in geometry rather than reason them out, and will memorize other
people's opinions rather than attempt to think for themselves. Even
though it is often really easier to rely upon one's own power to think
than upon memory, it takes some depth of nature to recognize the fact
and act accordingly.

Teachers show this tendency as plainly as students. In preparing
lesson plans, for example, very few will get beyond what is mechanical
and formal. The reason that recitations are so largely memory tests,
too, is that teachers put mere memory questions more easily than they
put questions that provoke thought. It is, therefore, a well-
established natural trait that is back of so much mechanical

A second reason for the prominence of memorizing is found in the
desire to strengthen the memory through its exercise. We know that the
arm may be developed by the lifting of weights, so that it will be
stronger for lifting anything that comes in its way. So it has long
been a common belief that memory, as a faculty of the mind, could be
developed by any kind of exercise so as to be stronger for all kinds
of recall. Many words in spelling, many dates in history, many places
in geography, many facts in grammar and even in the more advanced
studies, have been learned rather because they were supposed to
develop memory than for any other reason. Thus the desire of
strengthening memory has considerably increased the amount of

The belief that memorizing normally precedes thinking rather than
follows it, is a third very important reason for the prominence of
memorizing. "The most important part of every Mussulman's training,"
says Batzel, "is to learn the Koran, by which must be understood
learning it by heart, for it would be wrong to wish to _understand_
the Koran till one knew it by heart." [Footnote: Batzel, _The History
of Mankind,_ Vol. III, p. 218.] We hold no conscientious scruples
against understanding statements before attempting to memorize them;
but one might think that we did, for our practice in memorizing
Scripture generally corresponds to that of the Mussulman in learning
the Koran. I venture to affirm, also, that the average student
habitually begins the study of his lessons by memorizing, with the
expectation of doing whatever thinking is necessary later. The average
teacher conducts recitations in the same manner. There is the defense
for this practice, too, in the fact that it seems logical to get the
raw materials for reflection into our possession before trying to
reflect upon them. The result, however, is that a surprisingly small
amount of thinking is done; for the memorizing requires so much time
and energy that, in spite of good intentions, the thinking is
postponed for a more convenient season until it constitutes an
insignificant part of study, while memorizing, the drudgery of study
becomes its main factor.

_How this prominence may be reduced._

If it is possible to reduce the prominence of mechanical memorizing,
it is highly desirable to do so, for it is unreasonable to defeat the
ends of education in the attempt to educate. Let us see how this may
be accomplished.

_1. By providing more motivation._

There is no complete cure for our tendency toward the superficial and
mechanical, due to mental laziness; the defect is too deep. Yet to the
extent that we increase our motive for effort a cure is found. Live
purposes give force; they make one earnest enough to fix the whole
attention upon a task, and to determine to get at the heart of it;
they deepen one's nature. Full concentration of attention, due to
interest and exercise of will power, is one of the chief conditions of
rapid memorizing. Some of the ways in which such purposes may be
supplied have already been discussed in Chapter III.

_2. By abandoning attempts to strengthen the general power of memory._

In the second place, we can afford to abandon all attempts to develop
the _general power_ of memory. The power of various crude materials to
retain impressions that are made upon them varies greatly according to
their nature. Jelly, for instance, has little such power; sand has
little more; clay possesses it in a higher degree, and stone in a far
higher still. But whatever persistence of impressions a given lot of
any one of these materials may possess, it can never be changed, it is
a fixed quantity.

The same holds in regard to the brain matter. Some men have brains
that retain almost everything. Professor James tells, [Footnote:
_Psychology,_ Vol. I, p. 660.] for instance, of a Pennsylvania
farmer who could remember the day of the week on which any date had
fallen for forty-two years past, and also the kind of weather at the
time. He tells further of an acquaintance who remembered the old
addresses of numerous New York City friends, addresses that the
friends had long since moved from and forgotten; nothing that this man
had ever heard or read seemed to escape him. Other persons, on the
other hand, possess little power to retain names, dates, quotations,
and scattered facts; their desultory memory, as it is called, is very
poor. But whatever native retentive power any particular brain happens
to have, can never be altered. The general persistence of impressions
of each person is a physiological or physical power depending on the
nature of his brain matter, and it is invariable. "No amount of
culture would seem capable of modifying a man's general
retentiveness," [Footnote: _Psychology,_ Vol. I, p. 663.] says James.
Again, "There can be no improvement of the general or elementary
faculty of memory." [Footnote: _Talks to Teachers,_ p. 123.] Our
desultory memories, in other words, are given to us once for all.

It is commonly supposed, on the contrary, that persons who memorize a
great deal, such as actors, greatly strengthen their general memory in
that way. "I have carefully questioned several mature actors on the
point," says James, "and all have denied that the practice of learning
parts has made any such difference as is alleged." [Footnote:
_Psychology,_ Vol. I, p. 664.] Actors certainly do increase their
ability to memorize certain kinds of subject-matter. Any one who has
much practice in learning lists of names, even, is likely to increase
his ability for that and similar tasks, just as one who learns to play
tennis well is aided thereby in playing baseball. The reason for such
improvement, however, is found largely, if not wholly, in improvement
in one's method of work, as will be made clear later, rather than in
any increase in general retentive power.

While the question of improving the memory is somewhat in dispute,
[Footnote: See _Educational Review_ for June, 1908.] and some
psychologists assert that _any_ kind of memorizing will have _some_
effect on all other kinds, it is safe to say that mere exercise of
memory is, for all practical purposes, useless as a means of
strengthening general memory. Only those things, therefore, should
be memorized that are intrinsically worthy of being reproduced.

_3. By improving the method of memorizing._

Even though a person's native retentive power cannot be improved, the
skill with which he uses whatever power he has can be increased. Men
who lift pianos find the work very difficult at first; but soon it
becomes reasonably easy. The greater ease is not due to any marked
increase in strength, but rather to increased skill in using strength.
It is due to improvement in method; they learn how.

So it may be with memorizing. A large portion of such work is usually
awkward, consisting of repetitions that consume much time and energy.
But it is possible so to improve the method that memory tasks will
occupy comparatively little time.

_How facts are recalled._

Before discussing ways in which the method of memorizing can be
improved, it is necessary to consider how facts are recalled.

Impressions are not stored away in the brain, and afterward recalled,
in an isolated state, or independently of one another. On the
contrary, they are more or less intimately related as they are
learned, and recall always takes place through association of some
sort. "Whatever appears in the mind must be _introduced;_ and,
when introduced, it is as the associate of something already there."
[Footnote: James's _Talks to Teachers,_ p. 118.]

The breakfast I ate this morning recalls the persons who sat around
the table; memory of one of those persons reminds me of a task that I
was to attend to to-day; that task suggests the fact that I must also
go to the bank to get some money, etc. Thus every fact that is
recalled is marshaled forth by the aid of some other that is connected
with it, and which acts as the cue to it. This is so fully true that
there is even the possibility of tracing our sequence of ideas
backward step by step as far as we wish. "The laws of association
govern, in fact, all the trains of our thinking which are not
interrupted by sensations breaking on us from without," says James.
[Footnote: _Ibid._]

_How method of memorizing may be improved._

Since any idea is recalled through its connection with other ideas,
the greater the number and the closeness of such relations, the better
chance it stands to be reproduced. Improvement in one's method of
memorizing, in other words, must consist mainly in increasing the
number and closeness of associations among facts. A list of unrelated
words is extremely difficult to remember; every additional relation
furnishes a new approach to any fact; and, the closer this relation,
the more likely it is to cause the reproduction.

_1. By more of less mechanical association._

Even the simplest associations, that are largely mechanical, may be
important aids to memory. For example, it is much easier to learn the
telephone number _1236_ by remembering that the sum of the first
three numbers forms the fourth than by memorizing each figure
separately. _Teacher_ is a word whose spelling often causes
trouble; but when _teach_ is associated with _each_, which is
seldom misspelled, the difficulty is removed. _There_ and _their_ are
two words whose spelling is a source of much confusion; but it is
overcome when _there_ is associated with _where_ and _here,_ and
_their_ with _her, your, our,_ etc. _Sight, site,_ and _cite_ are
still worse stumbling-blocks in spelling; but the difficulty is
largely overcome when _sight_ is firmly associated with _light_ and
_night, site_ with _situation,_ and _cite_ with _recite._ The
association of the sound of a word with its meaning is an important
help in remembering the meanings of some words, as _rasping,_ for
example. Professor James, I believe, tells of some one who forgot his
umbrella so often that he practiced associating _umbrella_ with
_doorway_ until the two ideas were almost inseparable. Then, whenever
he passed through a doorway on his way out of doors, he was reminded
to take his umbrella along. While there might be some disadvantages in
this particular association, it forcibly suggests the value of
association in general.

The various mnemonic systems that have been so widely advertised have
usually been nothing more than plans for the mechanical association of
facts. Sometimes, to be sure, it has been more difficult to remember
the system than to memorize the facts themselves; yet they, too, give
witness to the value of association.

I once asked a thirteen-year-old girl, in a history class, when Eli
Whitney lived. She gave the exact month and day, but failed to recall
either the year or the part of the century, or even the century. Her
answer showed plainly that her method of study was doubly wrong; for
she not only offended against relative values in learning the month
and day while forgetting the century, but she revealed no tendency to
associate Whitney's invention with any particular period of history.
Even cross-questioning brought no such tendency to light. She was
depending on mere retentiveness to hold dates in mind. The habit of
memorizing facts in this disconnected way is common among adults as
well as children, and as a remedy against it the student should form
the habit of frequently asking himself the question, "With what am I
associating this fact or idea?"

In contrast with associations that are more or less mechanical, there
are vital associations that are possible in all studies containing
rich subject-matter.

_2. By close thought association.
(1) Through attention to the outline._

Early association of the principal ideas, or early recognition of the
outline of thought, is perhaps the most important of these. One can
proceed sentence by sentence, or "bit by bit," in memorizing as in
thinking, adding one such fragment after another until the whole is
learned. But the early recognition of the main ideas in their proper
sequence is far superior. These essentials give peculiar control over
the details by grouping them in an orderly manner and furnishing their
cue so that the whole is more easily memorized. This is true even in
the case of verbal memorizing, as is evidenced by a certain minister
quoted by Professor James. "As for memory, mine has improved year by
year, except when in ill-health, like a gymnast's muscle. Before
twenty it took three or four days to commit an hour-long sermon; after
twenty, two days, one day, one-half day, and now one slow analytic,
very attentive or adhesive reading does it. But memory seems to me the
most physical of intellectual powers. Bodily ease and freshness have
much to do with it. Then there is great difference