How To Study and Teaching How To Study
by F. M. McMurry
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The proper attitude toward knowledge.

What, then, is the proper attitude toward knowledge? While one should not be ultra-conservative, as though everything were finally settled, neither should one be ultra-radical, as though nothing were established; bigotry and skepticism are alike to be condemned.

The ideal state of mind is illustrated by leaders in industrial pursuits, like manufacturing. They confidently make the fullest possible use of existing knowledge pertaining to their business, including the latest inventions, while they keep a very careful lookout for further improvements. That is, they preserve an unprejudiced, open mind toward both the old and the new. It is just such a tentative attitude toward knowledge that all people should cultivate. So much of the old is defective, and so much new truth may come to light at any moment, that the fair, judicial mind is always in demand, a mind that is ever ready for new adjustments and that weighs and decides solely according to evidence. Colonel F. W. Parker used to declare that the grandest discovery of the nineteenth century was the suspended judgment. Yet this attitude is one that has long been insisted upon as essential to the scientist; indeed, it is most generally called the scientific attitude. It is strange, however, that those fields in which facts are best established should be the ones in which the importance of a tentative attitude is most emphasized. One would think that its worth for the non-scientific man would be far greater, for the facts that he hears about people and things, which guide him daily, are far less reliable, and his consequent necessity of changing his views is much more frequent.

The relation of this attitude to energetic action.

While a tentative attitude toward knowledge may be of great importance for the scientist or theoretical student, may it not be even harmful to the ordinary person? Force or energy is one of the chief requirements in the world of action; and if a person becomes much impressed with the unreliability of his ideas, as seems necessary in the cultivation of a tentative attitude, may he not come finally to lack decision and energy? Certainly we now and then see examples of indecision and half-hearted action, due at least in part to appreciation of opposing points of view and to consequent uncertainty of conclusions.

There may be such a danger; but it is, on the whole, to be courted rather than avoided; for, while examples of indecision are sometimes seen, examples of too decided convictions and of excessive energy in pushing them are far more common. It is not mere action that is wanted, but safe action. Force must be under the guidance of reason if it is to be free from danger, and reason is hardly possible without an interested but impartial attitude toward evidence. Possibly the energy of educators would be at least temporarily increased if they formulated and subscribed to definite educational creeds; but the partiality that would thus be encouraged would soon lead to strife and wasted effort.

A tentative attitude undoubtedly does limit activity somewhat, but only as good judgment limits it, for it is one of the leading factors in such judgment. It tends to eliminate misguided effort, and to check other action until its object is found to be worthy. Each of these effects is highly desirable.

On the other hand, there is no reason why it should be expected to diminish energy after favorable judgment on a project has been passed. It does not imply indifference or any lack of devotion; it merely favors the subordination of enthusiasm to insight, and delays expression of the former till the latter has given lief. The result is likely to be greater and better sustained effort than otherwise, because the tested excellence of the cause must be a source of inspiration and will help to carry one through discouraging intervals. Washington and Lincoln were both distinguished for freedom from blind prejudices and corresponding openness to the influence of new ideas; but they were also distinguished for uncommon energy and firmness in the pursuit of their main purposes. A tentative attitude toward ideas is, therefore, a real aid to energetic action in all but unworthy and doubtful causes; in these cases it is a very desirable hindrance. [Footnote: For a valuable discussion of this general topic, see J. W, Jenks' Citizenship and the Schools, particularly Chapter I.]


A receptive state of mind is supposed to be one of the peculiar merits of children. Indeed, they are so sympathetic with any view that the last presentation that they happen to hear in regard to a disputed matter is likely to be the one that they accept. It might seem, therefore, that there is no need of emphasizing the importance of open-mindedness as a factor in their education. That is far from the case, however. Children are peculiarly open-minded toward many things; but it is mainly those that they have had no previous opportunity to learn about. It is hard to take sides on a matter that you have never heard of. But the test of an impartial mind is found in those matters that are already somewhat familiar, so that one has already had some temptation to choose a side. Note how children act in such cases. How readily they declare allegiance to the political party of their fathers and shout with all the vehemence of stand-patters! How stubbornly they insist upon their teacher's method of solving problems in arithmetic when their parents undertake to assist them by showing a better way! They are nearly as intolerant as their parents on such occasions. How hastily they take sides in disputes among friends! And how very frequently their impatience with the statements and opinions of their companions gets them into quarrels and fights!

When we recall the great variety of decisions that they reach in daily life, and the impulsiveness with which many of them are made and supported, it becomes evident that precautions against prejudice and intolerance are not at all out of place in their education. The need is emphasized, too, when we realize that many persons adopt inflexible views on so great a number of disputed questions, that they show signs of becoming old fogies quite early in life. "Old fogyism begins at an earlier age than we think," says Professor James. "I am almost afraid to say so, but I believe that in the majority of human beings it begins at about twenty-five." [Footnote: Talks to Teachers, p. 160.] If instances of intolerance become numerous enough to begin to class a majority of us as old fogies at this age, certainly many tendencies toward a fixed state of mind must appear and need treatment at a much earlier age.

The matter is of special importance with young children, owing to the nature of the school curriculum during the early years of school. Beginning reading, writing, and spelling are systems of conventional signs, where authority and not reason decides what is right. Arithmetic, also, consists of absolutely definite, indisputable facts. Thus the facts in the three R's and spelling, which make up most of the curriculum in the majority of schools for the earlier years, show no flexibility whatever. They must be learned as fixed things, and they tend to give the impression that the definiteness and finality belonging to them are to be expected in all subjects. This impression is strengthened, too, rather than destroyed, by the behavior of average parents. The conditions are, therefore, very favorable for the development of snap judgments and fixed attitudes among children, unless such influences are counteracted by very careful training.


1. Acquaintance with a variety of views.

University students preparing for supervision of instruction often observe recitations together, with the object of discussing their merits and defects. No matter how carefully they may have analyzed a recitation, it is interesting, when they come to compare conclusions, to observe how their view-points vary, how many things each person has overlooked, and how widely their judgments at first differ. Many a student who has pursued such a course of study has reached the conviction that no one person is capable of discovering all the important factors in thirty minutes of instruction, and that his own conclusions are probably faulty in numerous serious respects. This impression in regard to the fallibility of individual judgment has a wholesome effect on any tendency to be too positive and fixed, while it directly engenders respect for other people's opinions.

Frequent discussion of questions in class, even among younger children, can have a similar influence, as can also the use of reference works and different texts on a subject. The young student should come to regard acquaintance with varying views as necessary to the formation of a reliable opinion on any topic and of sound judgment in general. That conviction will compel him to keep on the lookout for new light.

Says John Stuart Mill: "The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment, depending on the one property that it can be set right when it is wrong, reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right are kept constantly at hand. In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinion and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and on occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious. Because he has felt that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every variety of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner." [Footnote: John Stuart Mill. On Liberty, Chapter II.]

2. Slowness in passing judgment.

A second means by which a student may be kept from too positive and fixed an attitude is by being trained to feel satisfied that many a clearly stated problem that has arisen with him cannot be definitely and finally answered at the present time, and perhaps not at all.

Slowness in passing judgment may usually be urged with propriety. Even the mere attempts to reply to a query should occasionally be checked in class when it is evident that they are hasty. Some answers should be delayed even several days, the time meanwhile being occupied with the collection of data. Too many difficult questions are answered "at a sitting," with meager reflection and investigation, as though final answers in general could be obtained easily and quickly.

There are some problems also that should not be answered at all; not because they are not valuable, but because their solutions cannot yet be understood by the student, or are as yet impossible. The consciousness that knowledge is too difficult, or is positively wanting here and there, destroys overconfidence in the completeness of one's attainments and awakens the need of further study. One of the principal values of many a recitation, in any grade of work, should consist in the unsolved problems that have been worded.

3. Cultivation of sympathy.

A good measure of kindly feeling in one's make-up is, perhaps, the greatest single remedy against a too static condition of ideas. Feeling seems to have a double function in making one open and plastic. A kindly attitude toward new ideas is necessary before they can be viewed long enough to have their value tested. We must be positively friendly, or willing to see worth, before we can see it. Sympathy thus secures a hearing for new ideas. It was because the Jews lacked this feeling and consequent willingness, that Jesus condemned them for seeing not, though they had eyes, and for hearing not, though they had ears.

Feeling is also a condition of the appreciation of new thought after it has once secured a hearing. By a sort of intuition the significance of a fact is often felt long before the intellect has furnished proof of its value, the power of feeling supplying motive in this way for the intellect to do its work. And, again, until the conclusions formed by the intellect have reached the feelings, they exert little influence upon one's ways of thinking and acting. Cold sermons have little effect on most persons, even though, their logic forces assent to them. Appreciation of worth thus greatly depends upon one's capacity of feeling.

Considerable warmth of heart or mellowness of nature due to sympathy is, therefore, an important factor in rendering one willing to listen to new ideas and to be influenced by them. Without much feeling, a man is likely to be narrow and unyielding. Gradgrind, in Dickens's Hard Times, is a shining example of this type. In his excessive devotion to "hard facts" his emotional nature atrophied, until the many valuable cues or suggestions about the conduct of his business and the training of his children that a kindlier nature would have caught from the events occurring about him, failed to affect him, and on that account he went to smash. He admirably illustrates in a negative way Carlyle's striking statement that "never wise head yet was without warm heart," and he throws light on the profoundness of Saint Paul's meaning when he said, "Love is...never conceited...but has full sympathy with truth."

Without an abundance of affection a man is self-centered, a selfish aristocrat. Sympathy or love allows the ideas of others to be lifted to a plane on a level with his own and thus helps greatly toward his tolerance and receptiveness.

It is true that the scientist urges the elimination of all personal feeling in his investigations. He wants to be as purely intellectual as possible, in order to see things as they are, while personal bias tends to color facts and to that extent to vitiate them. It is chiefly, however, prejudice of all sorts in testing and judging truth that he is anxious to avoid, rather than any feeling of unalloyed interest in it. A certain warmth of feeling is necessary for its comprehension as well as its evaluation. The biologist, for instance, must be in close sympathy with birds in order to understand them, just as a mother must be in close sympathy with her child in order to understand him.

It would scarcely be worth while to include these thoughts were we not able to preserve and increase our capacity of feeling, in kind and degree, just as we can preserve and increase our knowledge. It is partly with this object that we have so broad a curriculum, even in the primary school, including music, painting, and literature, as well as other subjects. Literature certainly possesses great value for developing broad sympathy; it is at least a question if literary men do not exhibit less prejudice toward new ideas than scientists, although so much emphasis is placed upon induction, and judgment according to evidence, in the training of the latter that they might be expected to be especially open-minded.

In addition to broad study, we can take pains not to study too much, that is, not so much as to crowd out the emotional life. Insight is only one of several large factors in a good education, and the ambitious student is always in danger of becoming too exclusively intellectual for the highest scholarship. The true relation of insight to feeling is well illustrated in Lincoln's life, when in the midst of the most serious and pressing problems he took time for jesting and humorous tales. In spite of condemnation by his subordinates for levity, he had excellent grounds for such conduct; for not only was relaxation secured in this manner—which was important enough—but his own natural warmth of sympathy was also restored, which was of greatest value in weighing the worth of suggestions and events. Humor is an important aid to any serious person in preserving balance; a good laugh restores perspective.

While it is the duty of the more mature student to cultivate for himself a many-sided emotional life, even at the expense of some knowledge, it is the duty of teachers of children in particular to give them material help in this direction. There are few schools that do not emphasize learning to the neglect of feeling. The teacher can help first of all by avoiding setting a coldly intellectual example. In addition she can study the conduct of children with the object of correcting their narrowness. Many a child who isolates himself from conversation and play at recess is growing one-sided, whether he spends the time in doing nothing or in studying. He should be influenced to enjoy play and social life, just as he should be influenced to study, and it is the teacher's task to single out such cases and restore them to their normal condition.

4. Subordination of authority to reason.

Young people can learn to distinguish between authority on the one hand and evidence or reason on the other, and to subordinate the former to the latter, thus allowing conclusions to be based chiefly on facts rather than on persons.

The assertion of authority over children, requiring blind obedience on their part in matters of discipline, is very common. Similar assertion of authority over both children and adults in intellectual matters is also common. The authority of custom, for instance, as represented in the teacher, is dominant in beginning reading, writing, spelling, and in language in general. In many advanced subjects, also, students are accustomed to accept many statements as true simply because the instructors declare them to be.

(1) The two bases of conclusions.

Some subjects, however, to a peculiar degree eliminate authority, basing conclusions mainly on reason. Mathematics affords an example. Personal authority sinks so completely out of sight here that even a child can dare sometimes to correct the teacher. While the majority of studies lie between the extremes represented by literature and mathematics, it is safe to say that conclusions generally can be based upon reasons that are fairly within the understanding and the reach of young people, if it seems desirable.

(2) Inferiority of authority to reason.

Blind obedience is of doubtful value in the discipline of children, because it is so unintelligent; it is well called blind. Blind submission to authority in intellectual matters, on the part of either children or adults, is no less objectionable. It is not any person's mere assertion that makes a thing true, but evidence of some sort; and evidence is likewise usually necessary to make it interesting and comprehensible. The artificiality of the authority of a teacher as the main support for conclusions is plainly seen in the fact that there is no substitute for it outside of and after school and college. Its evil influence is also evident from the fact that persons accustomed to rely much upon it easily come to overlook evidence to the extent of blindly jumping to conclusions. And, having formed their opinions independently of reason, they cannot be easily influenced; for an attitude that has not been reached rationally is not likely to be modified rationally. Submission to authority easily ends in the most extreme dogmatism.

(3) The tendency of authority to usurp the place of reason.

There is a strong tendency, however, for authority to usurp the place of reason. In penmanship, for example, the teacher often dictates the proper position of the body, instead of acquainting the child with the reasons for it. The rules for composition are usually dogmatically presented, in spite of the fact that there are plain reasons back of most of them. If, for instance, a sentence did not begin with some large mark, such as a capital, and end with some other plainly seen mark, it would be difficult to distinguish one sentence from another, so as to read. Statements in geography were long based on authority, like those in grammar; in fact, only very recently has the causal idea become prominent in geography. High-school students of physics very generally want to know what the teacher wishes them to see in an experiment before feeling sure what they do see; and college students of politics, rather than depend upon the evidence itself, are inclined to learn the political views of their professors as the means of finding out what they themselves think.

There are good reasons for this tendency to base conclusions upon authority. It takes much more knowledge of a subject and much greater skill in its presentation to make the reasons for facts clear. Furthermore, it requires a good degree of energy and moral courage on the part of teachers to decline the compliment that young people confer upon them in preferring to trust them rather than evidence; and it also requires a good degree of energy on the part of students to rely upon their own study of facts. It is not surprising, therefore, if the average teacher makes himself the main authority for the statements that he makes in class, and if the average student readily accepts his authority. That is the easier way to get through a day.

(4) How this tendency may be combated.

As the first step in combating this tendency, both teachers and students must decide how highly they value a scientific method of arriving at conclusions. Heretofore our interest in conclusions as valuable information has been so great that the method of reaching them has been neglected; it mattered little how much prejudice or blind acceptance of authority was connected with them, so long as they were understood and remembered. If such neglect has been wrong, and if a habit of basing opinions on carefully selected facts is approximately as important as knowledge itself,—as is probably true,—then we have found sufficient motive for serious effort toward reform.

The next step is to make the words premises, evidence, proof, as prominent in study as the word conclusions. "In reasoning," says ex- President Eliot, "the selection of the premises is the all-important part of the process....The main reason for the painfully slow progress of the human race is to be found in the inability of the great mass of people to establish correctly the premises of an argument....Every school ought to give direct instruction in fact- determining and truth-seeking; and the difficulties of these processes ought to be plainly and incessantly pointed out." [Footnote: Atlantic Monthly, "The School," November, 1903, p. 584.] Some college studies, as physics, for instance, might be taught primarily for the sake of method rather than subject-matter, and all college subjects, so far as possible, should emphasize the value of the right method of study.

But scientifically trained college students, with their snap judgments in fields outside of their specialties, give convincing proof that emphasis on method in one or a few studies taken up so late in life cannot inculcate the general habit of mind desired. Such training must begin much earlier, must in fact extend throughout the whole period of study, as Dr. Eliot suggests. Teachers in the elementary school in particular must assume responsibility for developing a scientific habit of thinking, just as they assume responsibility for correct speech, and must insist upon the one in every subject as they do upon the other.

5. The referring of disagreements of view to large facts or principles.

The tendency to dogmatize can be further overcome if disagreements of view are habitually referred for decision to large facts or principles. Suppose that a dispute has arisen as to when phonics should be introduced in beginning reading, and how prominent it should be made. A, wishing to teach children to read as soon and as rapidly as possible, would drill upon lists of phonetic words and upon sentences composed only of such words, no matter how artificial they might be. B, considering other things more important in beginning school life than learning to read, strongly opposes any extensive and systematic use of phonics. Reiteration of views, and even the customary proofs of success by trial, may avail nothing. But reiteration may lead to derogatory remarks, when each becomes impressed with the stubbornness and meanness of the other.

Suppose, however, that B, remembering that details of method are determined by large principles, runs back to his largest controlling idea in beginning reading, the need of live minds or of lively thought on the part of the children. Suppose that he shows that extensive use of phonics during the first year of school means the use of words without meaning, a tendency that is marked in prayers and greetings and that has to be actively combated throughout school and college life. Suppose that he shows, further, that the main progress of the best primers and readers in the last twenty years has been in opposition to this tendency and in the direction of interesting thought, and that good expression of thought rather than the mere pronouncing of words is the chief element in good reading.

A large principle thus brought to bear is likely to accomplish one of three things: (a) it may lead to full agreement; (b) or it may itself be agreed upon, while the details are still objects of dispute. But in that case the large thought, having put the details in proper perspective, prevents unpleasant conflict by revealing their comparative littleness. Also, agreement on the large point convinces each disputant of the other's partial sanity, at least, and thus preserves harmony; (c) or, finally, the principle itself may become an object of dispute. Even then the largeness of the idea places the discussion on a high plane, and the disputants, impressed with the dignified, impersonal character of the thought, are disinclined to personalities.

This value of a principle is often illustrated in the work of criticising young teachers. Let the critic condemn with authority one feature of a recitation after another, making free use of the pronoun I, and the young teacher criticised is likely to glare at him in rising wrath. But let the critic omit the show of authority entirely, even the use of I, merely offering the reasons for certain objections, particularly some broad principle of method whose relation to the matter in hand is perfectly plain, and harmony is almost bound to prevail, no matter how complete the condemnation may be. Thus people will bear with one another, either agreeing or agreeing to disagree, so long as discussions center about principles; but without this condition intolerance and ill feeling easily manifest themselves.

6. The delaying of judgment till the evidence has been considered.

Having granted the need of relying on reasons, and large ones, rather than on authority, the habit can be inculcated of delaying judgment until the evidence has been considered. It might seem superfluous to add this suggestion, did it not frequently happen that people get the cart before the horse in this manner. For example, it is common for debaters to choose sides as soon as a question is agreed upon, and to do their studying afterward. Then, having committed themselves to one side, they study and argue in order to win rather than to get light. It being regarded as ridiculous for partisans to be on both sides of a question at once,—even though one's convictions often place one there,—they ignore strong opposing arguments, bolster up their own weak assertions by fluency of speech and a bold manner, and try to substitute witticisms for thought, when thought is lacking. While such efforts increase knowledge, they pit personality against personality in such a way that the ego rather than truth becomes the main object of interest, and on that account their influence as a whole is extremely injurious. That kind of discussion is not honest, and its spirit is far removed from that of the true scientist.

Young people should avoid taking sides, at least at the beginning of their study of a problem, and probably discussion should take the place of debating. At any rate, the single point, rather than the whole question, might form the unit of debate. They should be taught to argue on both sides of a question, according to belief, just as frank persons do in conversation, to recognize the strength of opposing arguments, and to confess their own weak points. Then they would be making truth their aim, rather than victory. Such discussions are much more typical of life than ordinary debates; and if the latter seem necessary as a preparation for some professions—which is deplorable, if true—one should wait to acquire such ability until professional training begins.

7. Avoidance of too positive forms of speech.

Aside from debates, people are often tempted to commit themselves too positively in regard to facts by too positive forms of speech. We so often hear "I know" in place of "I suspect" or "I surmise"; and the speaker, having committed himself almost before he knows it, repeats the assertion to make himself more sure, meanwhile wondering how sure he is.

Benjamin Franklin speaks in his autobiography of having acquired the habit of expressing himself in terms of modest diffidence, "never using," he says, "when I advance anything that may possibly be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, 'I conceive or apprehend a thing to be so-or-so'; 'It appears to me,' or 'I should not think it so-or-so, for such-and-such reasons'; or 'I imagine it to be so'; or 'It is so, if I am not mistaken.' This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me, when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engaged in promoting. And, as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or be informed, to please or persuade, I wish well-meaning and sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat most of those purposes for which speech was given to us." [Footnote:Autobiography, p. 21, of edition of Cassell & Co.]

Franklin is here considering intemperate forms of speech from the point of view of others. But they have a corresponding bad effect on the speaker, making him more dogmatic the more he indulges in them, until he loses the power to be tolerant of other persons.

Discussion and conversation should be conscientiously utilized by the student for the practice of intellectual honesty, of sincerity with himself, for such sincerity lies at the very foundation of true scholarship.



The change in appreciation of the self.

There was a time when people seemed to take pride in self- depreciation. Believing in total depravity, they were suspicious of all natural tendencies, and the crushing out of strong desires seemed no evil. Obedience to Another's will was the one supreme virtue, and the killing of human nature, the annihilation of self, was the condition of its attainment. [Footnote: See John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter III.]

But the watchwords of modern education—self-activity, self- expression, self-development, self-reliance, self-control—indicate a very different attitude now. The emphasis here placed on self recognizes it as the center of virtue; and the suffixes, activity, expression, etc., declare the unfolding of instincts and other native powers, up to the point of independence, to be a great desideratum in education. These watchwords signify that the constitution of an infant, like that of a young plant, fixes a certain goal within broad limits for it to reach, the narrower limits being left to be determined by social ideals. They signify further that this goal can be reached only by the unfolding of inner powers, and that the purpose of the educator, like that of the gardener, is not to create but merely to furnish the food and environment most favorable to growth. In brief, the object of education must be attained by quickening to the utmost, rather than by annihilating, the self.

This conception holds good, too, for every human being, in spite of the infinite variety of individuals. For, according to the doctrine of interest, which is a term ultimately related to these other terms and equally emphasized with them, only that spiritual food can be expected to be truly assimilated by any person which appeals to his peculiar nature; all else fails of real nourishment, no matter how much drill may be given to it. Thus the sovereignty of every individual is recognized. Psychologically speaking, there are no saints among us to set the standard for others. Each person is worthy of exercising his own choice, of having his own way; indeed, he must exercise this privilege if he is to act rightly.

Causes of this change.

What respect we have come to have for ourselves! Have we, then, put off corruption and become perfect? And is the millennium at hand? Far from it. We have merely discovered the method by which we can become good; and, stated briefly, it is that every one must be true to himself, or must be himself. It is not strange that, in this age of scientific investigation, we have come to know more about our own natures than we did two hundred years ago. And the knowledge gained touches two great questions: first, the original character of the infant mind; and second, its method of advance.

As to the former, we are now convinced that the child is originally endowed with certain impulses and instincts, or with certain instinctive tendencies, such as fear, love, curiosity, imitation, pride, constructiveness, appreciation of beauty, and conversational power, [Footnote: See James, Talks to Teachers, Chapter VII; also Dewey, School and Society, Chapter II.] and that these constitute the foundation or starting point for all educational endeavor. As to the latter, progress takes place by the unfolding of these instinctive tendencies, by their development rather than by their repression. Further than that, since everybody is unlike everybody else in his native impulses, and since his environment likewise varies, every person must expect to differ from all others, more or less, in knowledge, desires, and actions. Corruption may be as common as formerly, perhaps more so, requiring more vigorous restrictions than ever; but the proper way for any one to advance is to use the peculiar talents for good with which nature has endowed him, in the peculiar way fitting to himself. He may not do everything he likes; but whatever he does do must be an outgrowth of his own past, in harmony with himself and therefore an expression of himself, if it is to prove effective.

The value of individuality in English composition.

This truth is often illustrated in the government of children. A young teacher who attempts to govern a class "in just the same way as the principal does it," thus relying upon imitation, is doomed to failure. Pupils quickly detect the lack of native force, of genuineness, in such a teacher, and lose respect on that account.

But the vital character of this thought is best illustrated in English composition. It has long been recognized that merit in that field is present to the extent that one gives expression to one's own ideas, and is lacking to the extent that the ideas are borrowed. Whatever is to be fresh and valuable must bear the peculiar stamp of the author presenting it.

The reason for this is that only through self-expression is a natural product obtained. So long as I am consciously imitating another, or am unconsciously so warped by him as to ignore my own nature and experience, I am sounding a false note. What another thinks, no matter how good it may be, cannot properly represent me, and coming from me as mine, the want of harmony injures. I am in that case merely pretending, and the outcome is faulty because it is a sham. I might much better give expression to my own ideas, remembering Wendell Phillips's assertion that "any man who is thoroughly interested in himself is interesting to other people." Real interest in self (which is a very different thing from egotism) implies honesty with self and consequent freedom from subjection to another. Then naturalness, which borders closely on originality and is the first guarantee of excellence, is assured.

Naturalness is assured, too, in my expression of other people's ideas, provided these have become my own property by right of true assimilation. In that case they have received my own stamp, so that I am still offering something at first hand. The virility of even this kind of thought is well illustrated in the following composition by a twelve-year-old boy:—

The Chinese and Japanese may look alike in appearance; but they are not one bit alike. Once upon a time they both were the most civilized people in the world. Then Confucius came in and told them that they should learn no more and do exactly what their ancestors did. Both countries believed in this for a long time. Then the United States butted in and told them of their danger; they said that they were going backward instead of forward, and would be conquered by another nation if they did not pick up. The Chinese would not listen to this and said the United States had no right to interfere. But Japan thought there was some truth in this, and so the United States sent over machines, built factories, laid railroad tracks, etc. The result is that Japan is winning the war she is fighting with Russia.

How composition typifies life in general.

English composition is perhaps the best single test of the general healthfulness of school instruction, and it typifies life in general. The pretended appreciation of an author, an affected manner, insincerity in the profession of friendship and religion, anything that admits a deceitful, artificial element is pernicious in composition as well as in life. Whatever is good must be true. In consequence, no matter how extensively persons differ from one another, the first essential to the highest efficiency of each is fidelity to his own nature.

We hear a great deal about self-made men, men who have wrested success from a stubborn world without the help of the schools. They are examples of those who are guided from within rather than from without. But every man, so far as he is a man, is self-made. He has had to use his own observation to see; his own reason and judgment to foresee; his own discrimination to decide; and his own firmness to stand by his decisions. [Footnote: See John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter III.] His adaptation to his environment has been self-accomplished, and the first condition of its success has been a noble self-respect. Trust in self is a prerequisite to ability to do,—we must believe that we can, before we can,—and obedience to inner promptings is a necessary antecedent to such trust.

It was true wisdom that led Polonius to close his blessing on Laertes with the advice, "This above all: To thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Character itself is deeply involved. As Mill says: "A person whose desires and impulses are his own—are the expression of his own nature, as it has been developed and modified by his own culture—is said to have character. One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam engine has a character." [Footnote: Ibid.]

Necessity of accepting the self as it is.

Accordingly, it behooves every one to accept himself as he is. No doubt every one at times becomes dissatisfied with himself even to the point of despair. Feeling his own weakness, and seeing the many superior qualities of persons about him, he thinks how much more successful he might be if only he were some other person, and envy takes possession of him. But "there is a time in every man's education," says Emerson, "when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that, though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground (himself) which is given to him to till." [Footnote: Emerson, essay on Self-reliance.] And this conviction must not be accompanied with self-reproach. Any one who habitually feels ashamed of himself is shorn of power to do his proper work in the world. The nature and rightfulness of the desired contentment with self and of proper self-confidence are suggested by Emerson in the words: "What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text in the face and behavior of children, babes, and even brutes....Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look in their faces, we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody; all conform to it; so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand by itself....The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner and would disdain, as much as a lord, to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature." [Footnote: Ibid.]

Is such individuality conducive to social cooperation?

But are such unconquered, unconciliatory minds desirable where social cooperation is a necessity, as in present society? Are not those persons preferable as citizens who readily put by their claims and conform? Not by any means! It might be that wisdom would declare the supposed claim unfounded, and that energy to combat it, rather than willingness to conform to it, is wanted. Though yielding is often a virtue, unintelligent conformity is weakness. Intelligent and vigorous reaction of the individual against all claims for conformity, sufficient to judge them, is a prerequisite even to actual conformity, and it is only a well-developed individuality that is capable of such reaction.

Even military discipline, which represents the extreme in its demand for slavish mass action, greatly values individual independence. Soldiers often become isolated from their superiors in the midst of combat, and are left to act on their own initiative, sometimes deciding the fate of battles by their resourcefulness. It is partly appreciation of the worth of individuality in all walks of life that has spurred the European nations to educate the masses in recent years.

Ordinary social life makes a constant demand for individual judgment and self-reliance. A high average of ability and character is required for the maintenance of our democratic society; but that average can be attained only when the persons who compose society individually attain that average, that is, when their individuality is highly developed.

Why it is necessary to emphasize the importance of individuality here.

Summarizing the preceding discussion, we see that the ideal man is not one who is afraid, ashamed, and servile, but one who believes in himself and dares realize himself rather than imitate others, one, in short, who lives naturally and honestly. He possesses a personality commanding enough to produce self-respect, and an individuality bold enough to mark his thoughts and actions as his own.

Why is it necessary to emphasize this matter so much, particularly with reference to young people? In our country, where the children are so often charged with overboldness, and where commercial individualism seriously threatens society, is there real danger that the intellectual self may be neglected and that individuality may consequently be lacking?

1. Vigor of the reaction required in proper study.

Remembering that method of study is our theme, let us first recall the degree of vigor necessary in providing for the elements of study that have been named. Then let us consider some of the ways in which students show unnaturalness and a tendency toward self-suppression.

A person must stand somewhat firmly upon his own feet in order to set up for himself such specific aims, as guides for study, as have been urged in Chapter III. The supplementing of an author's statements is not so difficult, although one must be able to see around and beyond him, in order to realize what additions are advisable. The appreciation of relative worths, particularly the recognition of the organizing ideas in the treatment of a subject, is a task that requires a high degree of self-reliance. Judging of the soundness and general worth of thoughts is certainly not any easier. Any one can memorize; but to memorize in the proper way requires all the ability just referred to. The using of knowledge, involving the selection of the more promising part and its application until it becomes a part of the self and even habitual, is impossible without a high degree of mental vigor. Finally, the precautions to be taken in order to preserve a tolerant attitude presuppose a personality moved by purposes far higher than those of the average person. Altogether, therefore, proper study is impossible without a self that is energetic and firm. It should be noted, too, how little the mere quantity of knowledge that one has happened to collect counts. It is not so much learning as individuality that is required to meet these demands; on that account the child can study just as truly, within his sphere of experience, as can the adult.

2. Failure to assert the simplest rights in class.

Now let us consider the evidences of unnaturalness and of want of the boldness necessary for real study. In both school and college, when members of the class ignore their mates by addressing only the instructor, often speaking too low to be heard by others present, there is usually little complaint. Although each person is a direct loser, he seems reconciled to such neglect.

Very many young people lack the courage to ask questions in order to understand a point; and even when asked if they understand and if they do not wish to put some questions, they still are too timid to respond; not seldom they declare that they understand when they know that they do not. Teachers attending teachers' institutes are as bad as children in this respect. Such conduct is not due to any desire to deceive, but to self-depreciation; it is more agreeable to prevaricate than to assert one's self.

3. Subservience to authority.

The mere desire to please a teacher influences pupils of all ages to watch the teacher's expressions and gestures and to answer what is wanted, rather than what is sincerely thought. In Sunday school, in particular, children can scarcely be got to give sincere answers; they are so eager to please that they say what they think they ought to think, rather than what they really think. Undue respect for professors often has an overpowering influence on university students. The writer has known of several instances where students of good ability have almost lost the power to proceed with an argument, on the unexpected discovery that their view was opposed to that of some instructor.

The subservience to books is as striking as that to teachers. The history lesson of a certain class of eleven-year-old children contained the following paragraph on the appearance of the Indians: "When the first white men came to our shores, they found the country inhabited by the people Columbus had named Indians. They had copper- colored skin, coarse, jet-black hair, high cheek bones, thick lips, small eyes, and no whiskers." The children had considerable difficulty in reproducing the substance of this paragraph, attempting it several times. The writer, who was observing the class, remembered, however, having seen an Indian exhibition only a few weeks before, which included Indian men, squaws, boys and girls, and even papooses, and which this same class had visited in a body. After three rather unsuccessful attempts to relate the contents of the paragraph, the class were reminded of their visit to the Indians, and were then asked to tell how they looked. Forgetting about the text, they had no difficulty in doing this, for they were speaking out of their own experience.

Subjects like geography and grammar likewise frequently contain facts that pupils have long known; yet in school there is such an undue respect for print that many children dare not subordinate such matter to their own experience, and for that reason they have the same difficulty with it as though it were new.

It is rare for even the college student to assert his independence of both teacher and book. One of the greatest surprises that the writer received in a two years' college course was produced in a rhetoric class. The students were ordinarily assigned about twenty pages of advance text per day, which was reproduced in the recitation. On one occasion a student who was called upon did very well until he was interrupted by the professor in charge on account of an omitted topic. The professor gave the cue, but obtained no response; then, since the student usually knew his lesson, the professor exercised a special degree of patience and tried twice more to start him off. Failing, however, he impatiently asked, "Why didn't you tell about so and so"? "Why," replied the student, "I did remember something about that; but I didn't think that it was worth talking about." In the estimation of the entire class that man deserved a medal, and the writer still thinks so. There is subject-matter in most text-books that students are called upon to memorize which they feel is not worth reproduction, and they are often right; but most college students are as still as mice when it comes to declaring the fact. Their timidity in purely intellectual matters is equaled only by their boldness in playing pranks that require mere physical courage.

Subservience to mere custom is as common as that to teacher and to print. If certain pictures or musical selections have come to be generally admired, few persons to whom they fail to appeal have the courage to acknowledge the fact. There is much pretended enjoyment in art galleries.

The rate of progress acquiesced in by students is often greater than fidelity to self will allow. The amount of text and the number of references assigned frequently leave no possible time for reflection, although reflection is the sole means by which the self can react on ideas so as truly to assimilate them. Not seldom both teachers and students are conscious of this fact and even lament it, yet they continue in the same course. The result is that the average student learns to disregard his own questions, doubts, and suggestions, and is smothered by his studies. Only the exceptional nature rebels, as in case of the rhetoric, and follows his own gait, even in opposition to the teacher.

4. The abnormal lack of initiative in class.

In order to test the power of initiative of young people in study, the writer once selected a class of twenty children, ranging from ten to twelve years of age, who were doing the work of the fifth school year. They were only average pupils in home advantages and native ability. But the school to which they belonged, being the practice department of a training college for teachers, undoubtedly allowed a greater degree of freedom to the individual and possessed more merits than the ordinary public school. Nine of the children had attended this particular school from the beginning, and several of the others had gone there one or more years; and every one of the five different teachers that the class had had, had been a graduate of a state normal school, or of a teachers' college, or of both. Here, if anywhere, one might expect a good degree of independence on the part of the pupils. Also, the writer had been personally acquainted with the class from the beginning, so that they felt reasonably at home with him when he took charge of them in geography and history. After spending two thirty-minute periods with them on successive days, considering various review questions in geography, the writer, acting as teacher, assigned them the following lesson of map questions in the text- book:—

Here is a relief map of the continent on which we live. What great highland do you find in the West? In the East? In what direction does each extend? Which is the broader and higher? Where is the lowest land between these two highlands? Trace the Mississippi River. Name some of its largest tributaries, etc.

This lesson was to be studied in class aloud; that is, the writer was not to do any teaching or give any help; he was to assume as nearly as possible the attitude of a listener, doing nothing more than call upon some one now and then to "go on" or to "do what ought to be done next." The children were to do all that was necessary to dispose of the questions properly, even to the extent of correcting one another freely.

With this understanding a girl was called on to begin. She arose and read, "Here is a relief map of the continent on which we live. What great highland do you find in the West? In the East?" Then she stopped, and stood staring at the book. She may have needed to inquire the meaning of "relief"; or she may have been in doubt whether or not she should turn to the relief map opposite, which was small, or to the better map two pages further over; or to the wall map hanging, rolled up, in front of the class. But, although she was not noticeably embarrassed, she did none of these things. She waited to be told just what to do, and she waited patiently—until aid from the teacher arrived.

In response to the next question, "In what direction does each [highland] extend?" the two great highlands, the Rockies and the Appalachians, were described as parallel; and the pupil was passing to the next question without objections from any source, when the teacher again had to interfere.

The boy who was called upon for the third question, "Which is the broader and higher?" stepped to the wall map and pointed out the Rockies. But, as no one asked why they were supposed to be broader and higher, the teacher suggested that question himself. Some one gave the correct reason for considering them the broader; but by that time the entire class had forgotten that there was a second part to the question, and were passing on when they were reminded by the teacher of the omitted part.

In response to the fourth question, calling for the location of the lowest land between these two highlands, four or five stepped to the map in succession, showing wide disagreement. Yet no one asked any one else "Why?" or proposed any way of settling the dispute, or even evinced any responsibility for finding one. They would have proceeded to the next question had they not again been halted by the teacher.

In tracing the Mississippi River, only about one-half of it was pointed out; i.e., from Cairo southward. But no one entered complaint, and the next question was actually read before the teacher requested more accurate work. The girl called on to "name some of its largest tributaries" stood silent. Possibly the word tributaries puzzled her; but she lacked the force necessary to make a request for help. She seemed to be waiting for the teacher to ask her if she didn't need to ask some one else for the definition. So the teacher complied and the definition was given. But then all failed for a time to answer the original question, apparently because they could not break it into its two parts, first tracing the principal tributaries on the map, then finding the names attached to them.

These responses are representative of the writer's earlier experiences with these children. Although they were not frightened, and plainly understood that they were to go anywhere in the room, and were to do or say anything that was necessary, they almost invariably waited to be told when to step to the board; when an answer was wrong; when something had been overlooked or forgotten; when the pointer should be taken up or laid aside; and when they were through with a question.

Between three and four recitation periods of thirty-five minutes each were consumed, before they were able to do all that was necessary in answering the extremely simple questions above, with a half-dozen more, without help. Their frequent smiles of chagrin, too, proved beyond question that they were fully in earnest in their efforts. This helplessness was not exhibited on the first few days either. It was their custom to wait for assistance and directions—even to sit down—and it was a custom so well established that five weeks of daily work with them in history and geography, with the avowed object of breaking it up, only barely began a reform.

Other children, as a rule, would scarcely do better. But these are cases of children. Would not a class in a normal school or a college show greater capacity for leadership? Not often. Of course they possess greater mental power; but the subject-matter with which they are struggling is more difficult. Any teacher of such a class who unexpectedly eliminates himself from a recitation by silence, and who asks the students to provide a substitute from within themselves for his part of the work, is likely to feel disappointed over the result. Who will assert that such lack of initiative is natural?

5. The evil effects of such suppression.

How docile young people are, after all, in intellectual matters! They lack the courage to resent neglect in class, to acknowledge that they do not understand, and to ask questions; they lose their initiative and even independent power to think, when in the presence of teachers; and they ignore their own experience in favor of print. They are so bent on satisfying others that they suppress their own inner promptings. In doing this they seem to confuse moral with intellectual qualities, acting as though the sacrifice of self in study was equally virtuous with its sacrifice in a moral way. Yet listen to Emerson's warning:—

"Books" (and he might have said teachers) "are the best of things well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? They are for nothing but to inspire. I had better never see a book than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system. The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. This every man is entitled to; this every man contains within him, although in almost all men obstructed, and as yet unborn....Undoubtedly there is a right way of reading, so it be sternly subordinated. Man Thinking must not be subdued by his instruments." [Footnote: The American Scholar.]

The evil in a young student's being "subdued by his instruments" is that he is made artificial and dependent, and thereby ceases to be a whole unit. The artificiality is often shown in the voice. Many schools, owing to the restraint that their pupils are allowed to feel, are guilty of establishing a special recitation voice, distinguished from that ordinarily used in conversation by its different pitch, and often amusingly distinguished, too, when some interruption during recitation causes a question about outside or home matters to be answered in the natural way. Many educated adults have suffered so much in this respect that they cannot read in natural tones.

The dependence, further, is shown in any attempt to produce thought. When a student has formed the habit of collecting and valuing the ideas of others, rather than his own, the self becomes dwarfed from neglect and buried under the mass of borrowed thought. He may then pass good examinations, but he cannot think. Distrust of self has become so deep-rooted that he instinctively looks away from himself to books and friends for ideas; and anything that he produces cannot be good, because it is not a true expression of self. This is the class of people that Mill describes in the words, "They like in crowds; they exercise choice only among things commonly done; peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of conduct, are shunned equally with crimes; until, by dint of not following their own nature, they have no nature to follow; their human capacities are withered and starved; they become incapable of any strong wishes or native pleasures, and are generally without either opinions or feelings of home growth, or properly their own." [Footnote: On Liberty, Chapter III] Such people cannot perform the hard tasks required in study, because they have lost their native power to react on the ideas presented.

The evil is most serious with young children because of their youth. Many of them, while making good progress in the three R's, outgrow their tendency to ask questions and to raise objections, in other words lose their mental boldness or originality, by the time they have attended school four years. But all along, from the kindergarten to the college, there is almost a likelihood that the self will be undermined while acquiring knowledge, and that, in consequence, one will become permanently weakened while supposedly being educated. In this respect it is dangerous to attend a school of any grade.

Why individuality is so difficult to preserve and develop.

"Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each," says Emerson, "the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is that they set at naught books and tradition, and spoke not what men, but what they, thought." [Footnote: Essay of Self-reliance.] It is evidently exceptional for one's thoughts and actions to be quite fully one's own. In matters of dress hosts of persons would rather be fashionable than comfortable; and in matters of the intellect subordination to others is even more common.

One great reason for this is that people do not know how to be true to themselves; they do not comprehend themselves well enough for that. "Know thyself" was a dictum of Socrates that should precede the command "Be true to thyself," because it is a prerequisite to it. But if it takes a literary genius to reveal our thoughts to us, as it often does, certainly the average person will not discover his own characteristics alone. Even with firm intentions he will merely grope about, and from blindness and want of skill will stifle a good portion of his own nature.

On the other hand, if he goes to school, whatever peculiarities he may possess are liable to suppression through the teacher and the curriculum, the two chief agencies of the school. For the average elementary teacher is not greatly concerned about preserving and developing individuality, and the average high-school teacher or college professor still less. Indeed, many teachers are convinced that there is too much of it already, as shown in the discipline, and insist upon as much uniformity as possible, because it is less troublesome. When it comes to the curriculum, the commonly recognized purpose of instruction is acquisition of knowledge rather than development of self. But if a student sets out to amass as much information as possible, he is almost sure to be covered up by his collection; and, even if he proceeds slowly enough to admire and try to imitate the good that he finds in his spiritual inheritance and present environment, he is in no less danger of being mastered by his instruments. Thus it happens that while self-expression should be one of the great purposes of the school, annihilation of self is a common outcome.

The positive character of provision for individuality as a factor in study.

It follows from the preceding that provision for individuality is a very positive factor in study, one requiring much time and energy and on which all the others that have been mentioned are dependent. A person must have the courage to assert his rights in intellectual matters, must believe in the worth of his own past, and must not allow his regard for others to weaken his trust in self. All this requires a high degree of self-respect, which can be attained only by careful cultivation.

As he comes more and more in contact with the ideas, desires, deeds, and examples of other persons, and the demand for conformity grows more pressing, he must reserve special time and energy for studying his own powers and tastes and for discovering his own thoughts about the many subjects of study in which he engages. In the study of many a poem, for example, more time will be required to determine his own attitude toward it, to find himself in regard to it, than to understand its meaning.

Remembering that one purpose of education is development of the self, he must ever be on his guard against being warped out of shape by others, and must therefore offer a certain normal resistance to everything that is presented to him. To preserve and develop one's self thus normally, it is safe to say that any student should have as much esteem for himself, intellectually, as for others, and should spend at least as much time and energy upon himself in finding out what he himself thinks and feels, as upon others.


The value of tolerance on the part of teachers, as discussed in the preceding chapter, is plainly seen in this connection. Unless a teacher's manner toward a pupil indicates a high degree of respect, the pupil's respect for himself is in danger of being weakened. A sarcastic attitude is even worse than a dogmatic one; beyond doubt, the proper self-esteem of many a young person has been permanently undermined by his teacher's sharp tongue; sarcasm is the extreme of intolerance.

1. The relation between teachers and students.

There should be a clearer understanding, too, about the function of teachers in general. Many instructors give the impression that educational institutions exist for their benefit, rather than for the good of their students; and from the start the latter are forced into the position of suppliants. If questions are asked, impatience is shown; and if objections to statements are raised, impertinence is charged. Such treatment tends to cow the average student and thus to limit his power to react upon ideas.

While teachers may be real authorities in subject-matter, they can never be anything more than assistants in the self-development of their students. They should more openly assume this subordinate position, placing the primary responsibility upon the learner; they would then be less likely to subordinate the inner growth of the student, which it is their highest function to aid, to the mere acquisition of knowledge.

If, however, teachers practically compel subservience by an arrogant manner, or by the assignment of lessons much too long for one's normal rate of advance, or by the assignment of subject-matter that seems to have no possible value, what should the student do? Should he smother his own desires and opinions in the attempt to satisfy his teacher? Rarely, if ever; he will not grow inwardly by suppressing the self. On the contrary, when he feels himself in serious restraint, he should frankly state his grievances, and the teacher, even though a college professor, should receive and ponder such statements seriously, remembering that one reason he is paid a salary is that he shall exercise skill in adapting himself to the psychological condition of his students.

If these frank statements evoke no friendly response, then protest may be in place, and sometimes revolt, just as when political liberty is assailed. Of course, a good degree of patience and tolerance should always be exercised toward one's teacher; but there is need of more moral courage among young people to meet the disapproval of teachers and their punishments in the form of scoldings and low marks. Many a college student unresistingly submits to a sarcastic, dictatorial teacher when he ought to show resentment and stand on his rights. Resistance to teaching authority may be just as vital a part of study as the rejection of the conclusions of an author. Until such ideas are more generally practiced, a normal, vigorous self, which is the first factor in scholarship, is in danger. Intellectual liberty is not less important than political liberty, and often worth a fight. It is odd that much blood has been shed for the attainment of political and religious freedom, while the tyranny of mind over mind, which is exceedingly common in the class room, has scarcely been recognized as a serious evil. It can be accounted for only by the fact that both teachers and parents have been more interested in the quantity of knowledge acquired than in the inner growth of learners.

2. Recognition of individual characteristics.

Every person has many peculiarities that are important factors in his study and that should be noted by all concerned with great care. For example, aside from the desirable rate of advance for each person, which has already been mentioned, a student maybe eye-minded, or ear- minded, or motor-minded. That is, he may be peculiarly dependent upon his eyes, needing to see a statement in print rather than to hear it read, and inclined to visualize or image even the most abstract thought. Or he may learn best through the ear, wanting to hear statements read, rather than see them. Or he may be peculiarly dependent on motor activity, preferring to write his spelling lesson, rather than to see the words only or to spell them orally; such a person will need to gesticulate freely, to imitate movements and act out scenes, rather than see or hear only verbal descriptions. Some persons are naturally regular and systematic in their work, following a definite program each day and arranging facts as well as furniture in an orderly way. Others are pained by regularity and system, and find it impossible to reform themselves. They can work well only when they feel like it, and therefore by spurts. Some do their best thinking under the stimulus of discussion and opposition, others are disturbed by such conditions and can think best in private. Some are especially devoted to facts, being scientifically minded and interested in the objects about them. Others are idea-lovers, caring little for the concrete world of nature, but attracted to literature, history, and music. Others, still, are particularly strong in execution, rarely considering theory apart from practice.[Footnote: See President Hadley's article in Harper's Magazine, June, 1905.]

Some of the peculiarities that we discover in ourselves are weaknesses that should be discouraged and combated to the utmost; others require more or less modification. But there is no choice concerning most of them; their sum constitutes our nature, and we must accept them. They are our original capital, our source of strength on which all increase of strength must be grafted. And we should become well acquainted with them, just as the engineer should know the properties of steam.

Full acquaintance is impossible, and even approximate knowledge of the extent of one's powers cannot be reached, until one has become deeply interested in some project and loaded with responsibility in regard to it. But by humbly and diligently observing one's better tendencies, and by giving full expression to them, one may attain a fair degree of self-knowledge. One of the special duties of teachers and parents is to come to the assistance of young people in such study, helping them to recognize their strong and weak points and to understand themselves without getting discouraged or excited. If we fail to enjoy a book or musical concert that arouses the enthusiasm of others, we may well admit the fact to ourselves, and perhaps to others, with neither pride nor shame, but as a fact. Such facts reveal us to ourselves, and should be noted with the consciousness that, if strength is not found in one direction, it is likely to be discovered in some other.

3. Responsibility for initiative.

It is obvious from preceding statements that both children and older students must become far more accustomed to taking the initiative during instruction, if they are to take it in private study. The way to prepare for leadership, whether of self or of others, is to undertake such leadership under wise guidance.

There are two degrees of responsibility in recitation that are somewhat common. Suppose, for example, that a class in manual training is to make a tile out of clay, to be placed under a coffee pot. After proposing this task the teacher (1) might further state that the tile must be six inches square and one-half inch thick; that it must have a level surface; that a ball of clay of a certain size will be needed in order to make a tile of the desired size; that it must be pressed into shape mainly by the use of the thumbs; that careful measuring will be necessary to secure the proper dimensions; that square corners can be obtained by placing some square-cornered object directly over the corners of the tile, for comparison; and that a level surface can best be obtained by sighting carefully across the surface, so as to detect any irregularities. After these and perhaps other instructions have been given by the teacher, the children may be directed to begin work.

Or, after the task has been proposed, the teacher (2) might simply ask the main questions that need to be considered, letting the pupils find the solutions for the same as far as possible. For example: How large should the tile be made? What should be its shape? What kind of surface must it have? How must the clay be worked into the desired shape? How make sure of the dimensions? Of square corners? Of a level surface?

The first plan shows practically the lecture method in operation. The teacher presents all of the ideas, and the children have the position of listeners or followers. That method places the minimum degree of responsibility upon pupils, the responsibility for attention, and is quite common in the poorer schools and in colleges.

The second plan allows the children to join actively with the teacher in producing the ideas involved in the solution of the problem. It shows the development method in operation, which places much more responsibility upon the class. But the teacher even here takes practically all of the initial steps. She is the one who breaks the large problem up into its parts; who determines the wording of the questions and the order in which they shall be considered. The children follow her cue; they are subject to her constant direction, and merely make response to her specific biddings. The reaching of new thought by them under such immediate stimulus and suggestion involves responsibility for thinking, to be sure, but very little responsibility for the initial thinking or for initiative. Neither of these methods, therefore, plainly develops the power of self- direction.

Training in the exercise of initiative is provided, not when young people are following some other person's plan and answering some other person's questions, but when they are obliged to conceive their own plans and their own questions. Here is the crux of the whole matter. Some other method, therefore, is desirable, and it is not difficult to find. After the making of the tile has been proposed, the teacher might simply ask, "How will you plan this piece of work?" leaving the conception of the main questions, together with the answers, as far as possible to the children.

They would know that a certain size would need to be determined upon, fixed by the size of a coffee pot; that the shape would have to be considered, the round or square form being chosen according to personal preference and ease of making; that the thickness would be a factor, it being important that the tile be thin enough to be reasonably light, but thick enough not to break easily or to let heat through; that a level surface is desirable, both for the sake of beauty and utility; and that some way must be found for pressing the clay into shape. All of these ideas lie within their personal experience and therefore call only for common knowledge and common sense.

All or most of this part of the plan, including the correction of any misstatements, could be made by the children with little or no help from the teacher. Where their knowledge is more limited, however, she should come to their aid, either telling or developing, as the case required. For instance, she might possibly tell outright how much clay each would probably need, also how the clay should be pressed into shape; and develop the method of making sure of proper dimensions, of square corners (or of roundness) and of a level surface.

This task in manual training is typical of lessons in general. In their mastery there is always a procedure of some sort to be followed, and now and then, at least, this procedure lies in whole or in part so fully within the class experience that they should have the responsibility of mapping it out. Sometimes in the lower grades such work might occupy a whole recitation period; again, only a few minutes. As the experience increases, this responsibility should increase, so that the higher grades should often show children stating the main questions to be considered in their lessons, without help, just as they have long been in the habit of stating the main steps to be taken in individual problems in arithmetic without aid. In very many recitations children should have responsibility for rejecting some of the answers and for accepting others. The writer is acquainted with one eighth-year class in which not only all this is done, but the children frequently determine their own lesson assignments, reporting in class what home work was attempted the previous evening and how it was done. These reports are then subjected to general criticism and suggestion. If such practices become successfully established in the elementary school, they will have to be adopted higher up, for very shame if for no other reason.

4. Past experience as the principal source of new ideas. (1) Illustrations.

Socrates was one of the most fertile thinkers that ever lived; yet he scarcely traveled beyond the walls of Athens, and was accused of always talking about the most commonplace objects, such as "brass founders and leather cutters and skin dressers." He clearly illustrates the fact that fertility of thought bears little relation to one's quantity of learning, but depends rather upon the use made of such very simple raw material as any ordinary person possesses.

The Children's Hour as discussed on pages 69-70 show how one's past may be used in the production of thought. The poem tells of an hour set aside by the family for play. The fact that we know this to be a very rare thing prompts the questions, "Was it customary in this family, or did it happen only once?" The fact that many fathers would be bored by such an hour suggests the query, "Did this father really enjoy it?" The fact that the custom is so uncommon raises the further inquiry, "Was there any special merit among these children that led to it?" Also, "Why is the custom not more common?" And, since some one must take the lead in establishing such an hour, the query follows, "Can children themselves accomplish anything in this direction?"

Thus facts that are well known lead to new ideas. No matter what we hear or read, or what topic is given to us to ponder, thoughts additional to those directly presented are likely to be reached by reference to past related experience. That one should look to past experience as an almost unlimited source of new thought is one of the most important truths for any person to bear in mind who is endeavoring to learn to think.

(2) The common neglect of experience.

It is very common, however, for persons who are rich in experience touching some subject that they are studying to fail almost entirely to use it. This was once well illustrated by about twenty young women who were specializing in domestic science. At their own suggestion, they prepared written plans for teaching how to bake sweet potatoes; the writer was to correct these and discuss them with the class. But after carefully examining all the papers and finding remarkably few facts included, he asked the class what was really necessary, after all, in the baking of sweet potatoes, beyond putting them, clean, into a hot oven and taking them out when done. He requested them to enumerate the facts that really needed to be taught. After perhaps two minutes of meditation they sheepishly admitted that there was really very little to present on the topic, and that they had carefully written out plans only because "plans" were expected, and they wanted some practice.

Since it was subject-matter, rather than method, that was needed, the discussion was then directed to the facts involved in baking the potatoes. A dispute soon arose when one remarked, "You should never cut a sweet potato," others inquiring what should then be done with those that were partly unsound, and how potatoes of very different sizes could be baked together. Numerous other questions were considered, as follows:—

What is the best way to clean them? Is it best to allow them to lie long in water? Should the oven be very hot, or is a slow heat preferable? Should anything be done with them while baking? How can they be protected against burning? How much time is necessary for the baking? Or will it vary? If so, why? How tell when they are done? Is it necessary to take them out and strike them with the palm of the hand, breaking them slightly? How get them out without burning one's self?

Since one cookbook says that we want "dry and mealy" potatoes and another states that they should be "moist and sweet," which is right? Also, what different steps should be taken to secure each kind? Some persons parboil the potatoes before baking them. Is that desirable? What about the advisability of baking them with butter, sugar, and salt? Are there other ways of baking them? What changes does the heat effect in the potato? Should they be served immediately? Or, if guests are not prompt, is there any way of keeping them in good condition?

Most of these questions arose for the first time in the discussion, not having been referred to in any of the plans. Yet, no doubt, all the members of the class had baked sweet potatoes many times, had read cookbooks as often as novels, and—since they were not altogether young—had scores of times been called upon to eat potatoes that were not clean, or were unsound, or not done, or were tasteless, or burnt, or soggy, or cold. Therefore, probably not one of the questions was entirely new to any one of the students, so that the raw material for thought was present in abundance and even very close at hand.

(3) Reasons for such neglect.

Why, then, did they so neglect their past? Above all, why should two minutes of reflection on the subject mark their limit? For, having given to themselves the signal tor all stray ideas on the baking of sweet potatoes to assemble, their manner indicated no hope of further returns after the expiration of that brief period. A partial answer is that they did not know where to look for ideas. But an additional answer is that they did not know how to look to their past, and they accordingly lacked confidence. Indeed, they knew that they could not think, so what was the use of wasting more than two minutes for the sake of appearances?

It does require some knowledge and confidence to think out a subject in view of one's experience. When we are somewhat familiar with a subject, some ideas in regard to it may come very readily, so that the first few minutes of reflection may be easily spent and fairly rewarded. But the ability really to think is tested after this period. Then we must know how to overhaul our past and must have faith that we will get something from it. We must search our experience through and through, viewing it from one point and then another in the keen lookout for suggestions. And we must know that many of the best thoughts, probably most of them, do not come, like a flash, fully into being, but find their beginnings in dim feelings, in faint intuitions, that need to be encouraged and coaxed before they can be surely felt and defined.

The writer's experience in the observation of recitations with graduate students has often illustrated this fact. Not seldom a recitation has been observed that has apparently pleased most of the observers, but that has produced only an uncomfortable feeling on his part. At the close of the recitation he had no more definite ideas about its merits than his students; but he was conscious of this feeling of discomfort produced, and knew that if he followed it up he would probably arrive at some important thoughts. Occasionally his main points in an extended discussion of a recitation have been reached in this way. Usually he has found afterward that his students have had the same feeling as he; but they were scarcely conscious of the fact, and, even if conscious, they failed to realize its worth as a source of suggestion.

Thus vague premonitions furnish the clew to much of the best thought. Very often one of the chief differences between a thinker and one who cannot think lies in the attention given to premonitory feelings of pleasure, discomfort, doubt, suspicion, etc.; the latter ignores such, while the former, when he lacks clear ideas, or all ideas, even shakes himself to discover how he feels, and patiently labors to define his feelings and trace them to their source.

(4) How confidence in the value of one's past may be developed.

But how dependent such study is upon self-confidence! Unless we have faith in the richness of our own experience, and belief that a careful inspection of it will be rewarded, we lack the courage and patience necessary for success.

How can such confidence be cultivated? Mainly by cultivating the habit of turning first to self when reflective thought is required. It is presupposed that we must consult the library and the world about us for raw facts of various kinds, for historical events, scientific data, views of men, descriptions, etc.; but when our own thought is wanted on a topic with which we are somewhat familiar, and on which we are supposed to have some ideas, let us form the habit of turning to ourselves first; to others as helps later. If other authorities are consulted first, there is danger that the first impressions, the first thoughts, of the student will never come to light; the ideas of others will hide these and become their substitutes, thereby engendering distrust in self. But by giving attention first to self, by giving it the first chance, its contributions can be recognized; that encourages it to grow and attain vigor, so that, when outside helps are later consulted, it can react upon them and maintain itself. Every young person should do enough thinking on a subject, before attempting to find what others think about it, to have something to oppose to these others, as a basis of judgment. That will keep the self upper-most and cultivate the confidence desired.

If, on the contrary, we wait until we have found what others think, before attempting to find what we think, others will do our thinking for us, and we will ever be suffering from the timidity that Emerson laments in the words:—

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good- humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the tune, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another. [Footnote: Emerson, essay on Self-reliance.]





The meaning of study.

True or logical study is not aimless mental activity or a passive reception of ideas only for the sake of having them. It is the vigorous application of the mind to a subject for the satisfaction of a felt need. Instead of being aimless, every portion of effort put forth is an organic step toward the accomplishment of a specific purpose; instead of being passive, it requires the reaction of the self upon the ideas presented, until they are supplemented, organized, and tentatively judged, so that they are held well in memory. The study of a subject has not reached its end until the guiding purpose has been accomplished and the knowledge has been so assimilated that it has been used in a normal way and has become experience. And, finally, since the danger of submergence of self among so much foreign thought is so great, it is not complete—at least for young students—until precautions for the preservation of individuality have been included.

The common notion that study should consist of thinking is, therefore, quite right. In Hints for Home Reading (p. 51) Henry Ward Beecher says of himself: "Reading with me incites to reflection instantly. I cannot separate the origination of ideas from the reception of ideas; the consequence is, as I read I always begin to think in various directions, and that makes my reading slow; and that being the origin of it psychologically, it has grown into such a habit that, if I read a novel even, I read slowly." Later he advises (p. 95), "Never give more time to reading a book than to reflecting upon its contents." In criticism of the customary haste in reading, on the other hand, Mr. Gorschen declares: "Honestly, I must say, I believe that a vast number of readers do not allow what I may call the frenzied current of their eyes, as they read, to be stopped by even a moment of calm reflection or thought." [Footnote: Aspects of Modern Study, by Right Honorable G.J. Gorschen, D.C.L., M.P., p. 39.] Real assimilation of ideas has to be slow; and while some reading, owing to the simplicity of subject- matter, should be as rapid as the eye can travel, the rate at which ground is usually covered is too great to make assimilation possible.

The eight factors of study that have been treated are not to be regarded as separate stages of advance that must follow one another tandem fashion. The principal stages through which the learner passes are only four in number as outlined in Chapter VIII. Yet some of the eight factors necessarily follow others. For example, the conception of the specific aim should, if possible, come first, while memorizing should usually come late, partly if not wholly as the by-product of thinking; and the actual using of knowledge should come last. On the other hand, provision for a tentative attitude and for individuality should be made frequently throughout one's study. Several of these factors, therefore, may be in evidence in any one of the four chief stages of advance described.

The ability of children to learn to study.

We have seen that children possess the ability to undertake the kind of work required by each of the several factors of study. In fact, outside of school, they are continually applying their minds in the meeting of specific needs, as adults are, thereby employing most, if not all, these factors. There is, accordingly, no fundamental difference between their study and that of adults, although the relative prominence of the various phases may vary somewhat; in other words, these factors of study are general principles like the principles of teaching, and likewise applicable to all ages. No assertion is here made that children know intuitively how to do this systematic kind of studying; they merely have the qualities of mind and the experience prerequisite to rational study, and are therefore in a position to receive instruction on the subject with profit.

Why young people have not been learning to study properly alone.

Every one recognizes the fact that young people, as a rule, have not been learning to study properly alone. There are two reasons for this, which deserve very careful consideration. One is that the difference between studying with a teacher and studying alone has been overlooked. It has been assumed that the two were practically identical, so that the one was full preparation for the other, while in fact there is a very striking difference between them.

Consider what happens in class instruction, and then how independent study differs from it. When a young person sets to work to master a lesson with the aid of a teacher there is a question of how much two persons can accomplish together. One of the two is mature, more or less informed in general, more or less versed in the principles of study, and more or less skilled in their application. The other is immature, and only under favorable circumstances fully willing to apply himself.

1. The difference between studying alone and with a teach has been overlooked.

As they ordinarily work, their relation to each other is well defined. In case text has been assigned, the teacher asks various questions, pushes the pupil against difficulties, points out crucial thoughts, calls a halt here and there for review and drill, supplies motive for attention by reprimanding or praising or pummeling, as the case may be, and not seldom becomes flushed in the face from exertion. In the case of development instruction in which, without the help of a text, the thought is slowly unfolded by means of question and answer, the teacher is the recognized master of the discussion. She usually selects the general topic, breaks it into its parts, and then concentrates her abilities on her questions, endeavoring to make them short enough not to require too sustained attention, simple enough to be reasonably easy, and attractive enough to be sure bait. In short, she exerts herself to the utmost to conceive questions of just the right size and quality; and, if she is very skillful, her morsels of knowledge will prove so enticing that they will be swallowed and digested without pain, and perhaps without conscious effort. In case lecturing is the method followed, the teacher is still more plainly the sole producer of thought, it being the mission of the student to listen, comprehend, and retain.

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