The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Book Review by Victory H. Allemandy
The Mind of The Child, by W. Preyer
This month we are going to consider Professor Preyer's admirable phychologica book dealing with The Mind of the Child, containing "Observations concerning the Mental Development of the Human Being in the First Years of Life." The book has been published in two volumes, the former dealing with "The Senses and the Will," the latter with "The Development of the Intellect." The author's qualification as Professor of Physiology at Jena is sufficient to render his monograph on child life of the utmost importance to all psychologists. Professor Preyer some years ago set himself the task of studying the child, "both before birth and in the period immediately following, for the physiological point of view, with the object of arriving at an explanation of the origin of the separate vital processes." The results of his study of the child before birth have been published in the Physiology of the Embryo, and of the child after birth in the volumes now before us.
The study of Child Life has been seriously impeded owing to a lack of available authentic data, from which to draw scientific generalizations. On the Continent more then in England has this study proceeded on scientific lines. To mention names would be invidious, but I must allude to the work of Professor Sully who, for years, has helped us to understand the working of the child mind. Here we have the outcome of a direct and continuous study, from the first to the fortieth month. Speaking of the lack of chronological observations the author says:—"I have, notwithstanding, kept a complete diary from the birth of my son to the end of his third year. Occupying myself with the child at least three times a day—at morning, noon, and evening—and almost every day, with two trifling interruptions, and guarding him, as far as possible, against such training as children usually receive, I found nearly every day some fact of mental genesis to record. The substance of the diary has passed into this book."
Of incalculable benefit to readers is the admirable, lucid and careful "conspectus," which has been arranged by Mr. H. W. Brown. This "conspectus" gives at a glance the chief points noticed by the professor during each month and from which comparisons may be drawn with little trouble to the reader. We have selected one section for reproduction here.
Sight.—Seeing Near and Distant Objects.—Fifty-first week, pleasure
in seeing men saw wood at distance of more than one hundred feet. (55).
Impulsive Movements.—Accompanying movement of hand in drinking (209).
Ideas gained before language (78). Logical activity applied to
perceptions of sound (I, 88). Abstraction, whiteness of milk (18).
Psychology for Teachers, by C. Llloyd Morgan.
Mr. Lloyd Morgan's name will be known to many of our readers from his numerous contributions to biological science. Among those contributions may be mentioned, Animal Life and Intelligence, Habit and Instinct, and Animal Sketches. But Mr. Morgan's contributions to literature are by no means confined to the realms of biology. As Principal of University College, Bristol, he has in his book entitled Psychology for Teachers. Intended primarily for teachers, the book is by no means pedantic and is readable throughout, even by those who know very little of the science of psychology. A capital introduction is furnished by Sir J. G. Fitch himself an author of educational works of no mean repute. The usual psychological topics, such as "States of Consciousness," "Association," "Experience," "Perception," "Analysis and Generalisation," "Description and Explanation," "Mental Development," "Language and Thought," and "Character and Conduct" are dealt with.
By means of language and literature we are able to become acquainted with the thoughts of others. "But," says Mr. Morgan, "we can only interpret the language and consciousness. If I say that I have seen an ox, you understand me because you have seen many oxen. If I say that I have been examining the heart of a crayfish, you have probably never seen one, and therefore cannot interpret my words in terms of your own experience. We must always remember how limited is the experience of children, how difficult it must be for them to interpret much that we say to them, and how apt they are through imagination to form false ideas very difficult to correct."
The author advocates learning by rote, provided there be a preliminary understanding of the matter to be subsequently learnt by heart. "And much," he says, "may be done to lighten the drudgery by sympathy. Over the lintel of every school should be engraved the precept: Establish a background of sympathy. The child will do much that is irksome to give pleasure to one with who he is in sympathy." In the chapter on "Experience" we find the following. "Now, a great deal of early education is concerned with the imparting of shill. And I think it is no exaggeration to say that, so far as this is concerned, and ounce of demonstration is worth many pounds of description. We build here upon the natural faculty of imitation. We must show the child how a skilled action is to be performed, and get him to imitate what we do."
The chapter on "Description" and "Explanation" and "Mental Development" are full of interesting and practical explanations. We will here briefly summarise the chief points of these chapters: In description and explanation we are dealing with relations; there is a distinction between the two; ultimate explanations are beyond our reach; explanations should be accompanied with demonstration; training in observation necessary; experiment often employed; proceed from the particular to the general. In "Mental Development," the main topics are: Mental development is a natural process; process of assimilation essential; development of mind and body should proceed simultaneously; cultivate the imaginative faculty; it must not be checked but guided.
may be taught (or more general knowledge), than is often attempted; and in methods that do not impair the elasticity or exhaust the force of the mind, and such especially as do not breed a distaste for learning." In his second chapter, Mr. Taylor deals with that atmosphere of happiness which is so necessary a condition of education. He bids us observe that children possess a natural fund of spontaneous, self-resourceful happiness. "An infant, simply protected from positive suffering, is happy from the stock of its own resources, and by the perpetual rise of joyous emotion, having no determinate direction as they burst abroad, like rills from a hill top, and which sparkle and dance as they glide away." . . . "The happiness of children is not a something to be procured and prepared for them, like their daily food, but something which they already possess, and with which we need not concern ourselves any further than to see that they are not despoiled of it."
The creative power of childish happiness shows us that it is not mere animal pleasure-"it is mind, the rich and grasping and excursive human mind (such even in infancy, that is at work on the poor materials of its felicity . . . A child of three years old creates for itself from a stick, or a stone, or a straw, a long continued and tranquil delight . . . A boy of ten or twelve with a hammer, gimlet and nails, will furnish for himself an intensity of happiness, spending hours in employment which derives ninety-nine parts out of the hundred of its power of fascination from what the mind adds to the tangible material of pleasure." The natural fund of happiness is so intensely precious that all the educator's skill should be exercised to ensure its preservation. If it be broken by ill-temper, ill-health, over-pressure of mental work or by a life of too great excitement, the mental and moral qualities of the child will be in danger. Country life offers very many advantages for healthy occupation of body and mind, which Mr. Taylor considers very valuable, especially for little children. The next chapter is called "Family Love and Order." In it the author very ably deals with the importance of prompt obedience, springing form a deep love.
"If we attempt to divine the secret of prosperous management of children, perhaps it would resolve itself into the simple fact of a quick perception of the train of their ideas, at any moment, and a facility in concurring with the stream of thought, whatever it may be, which, by the slightest guiding word or gesture, can be led into whatever channel may be desired. The rule of management might then be condensed into the three words: discern, follow, lead. That is to say, there is first the catching of the clue of the thought in a child's mind; then the going on with the same train a little way; and lastly, the giving it a new, though not opposite direction, in compliance with the principle of the natural association of ideas."
Very forcibly does Mr. Taylor explain that "family love and order" are indissolubly connected; the necessity for fines and penalties, and the petty rules and regulations necessary to secure order and punctuality, shows a lack of true filial love and reverence.
"But where a warm affection is the spring of obedience, and where children are really made happy from day to day, as exact regard to times and to plans, or as much exactness in the respect as can be deemed useful, may be secured-no one sees by what means, the whole domestic movement is spontaneous, the machine a living one; and inasmuch as it is not on a very large scale, the known will of the supreme power comes in the place of whatever is formal and palpable. Along with the substantial advantages of regularity, there may therefore be enjoyed a feeling of liberty and of individual spontaneousness, highly conducive to vigour of mind, and especially to a clearly-expressed originality of personal character." Having thus broadly dealt with the principles upon which home training should be built, Mr. Taylor now goes on to show how each period of the child's life should be studied and cared for. He divides it into three epochs: infancy, childhood, and youth, each of which has its own strong and weak characteristics, requiring a carefully-adapted treatment, suited not only to the particular period, but also to each individual child, no two children developing in the same way or at the same rate.
During infancy the animal organisation of the brain is rapidly advancing, and therefore everything should be made subservient to its healthy growth and consolidation.
Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Mar 2009
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