What is the great characteristic of all living things? It is that they grow; we cannot make them grow, but they grow of themselves. The farmer plants his crop of corn. He doesn’t get a jackscrew and put under every hill of corn, and go around every morning and give the screw a turn and a twist and hoist the hill up in the air. He prepares the soil as best he can. He puts in the seed; he keeps down the weeds; he keeps out things and living beings which will injure the crop as far as he can; then he leaves it alone to God and Nature to make that corn grow, and in time he gets a bountiful harvest.
I believe that education some day will be somewhat like raising a crop of corn. We shall learn to keep the child under the best condition possible. We shall learn to keep down harmful and injurious surroundings or forces so far as they can interfere with him. We shall stimulate growth in every possible way; that I grant you; and when we have done that, we shall leave the rest calmly to Nature and to the good Lord who made that child for some good purpose.
It is a grand thing to have the child learn to see for himself the glories of this magnificent world. I verily believe that when you and I go home, while the good Lord will be very merciful with us because of our sins, I don’t see how he can forgive many of us for not having had a great deal better time in this glorious world in which He has put us. When you open the child’s eyes to the beauties and the glories of Nature you have done a great thing for it. But, after all, that is not the grandest thing to my mind. The grandest part is that every wave of vibration that goes in through the eyes as the child looks at Nature, and pours into the brain, stimulates that brain to a larger growth than it would otherwise possibly have attained, and the child is a larger and a grander child for that Nature study.
We believe in manual training because it gives us skilled fingers and enables us to do deftly and well a great many things which we otherwise could not do at all, and which most of us men have to go to our wives and ask them to do for us. But that is not the grandest part of manual training; the grandest part is the reaction from the finger upon the brain, stimulating the brain to realize all its ideals, and stimulating it so that whenever it sees good work of any kind in this world it shall appreciate it heartily and enjoy it with the joy of the artist.
We speak of physical training and physical training is brain training in the end, it is training in growth. It is very evident, however, that the growth and development of a baby is something different from the growth and development of a child; and the growth in the child is very different from that in the youth and that of the youth from that of the adult. In the baby the vital organs are growing faster. In the young child the muscular system is coming to the front, and he runs and plays and through the stimulus of that muscular exercise he brings out every organ in the body and gains that magnificent health which he so much needs.