STUDY OF CHILD LIFE
BY MARION FOSTER WASHBURNE
APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES.
In this “Study of Child Life” we have considered some of the fundamental principles of education. When we think of the complex inheritance of the American people it is, perhaps, no wonder that many families contain individuals varying so widely from each other as to seem to require each a complete system of education all to himself. We are a people born late in the history of the race, and our blood is mingled of the Norseman’s, the Celt’s, and the Latin’s. Advancing civilization alone would tend to make us more complex, our problems more subtle; but in addition to this we are mixed of all races, and born in times so strenuous that, sooner or later, every fibre of our weaving is strained and brought into prominence.
In the letters from my students this fact, with which I was already familiar in a general sort of way, has been brought more particularly to my attention. In all cases, the situation has been responsible for much confusion and difficulty. In a good many, it has led to family tragedies, varying in magnitude from the unhappiness of the misunderstood child to that of the lonely woman, suffering in adult life from the faults of her upbringing, and the failure of the family ties whose need she felt the more as the duties of motherhood pressed upon her. If it were possible for me to violate the confidence of my pupils I could prove very conclusively that the old-fashioned system of bringing up children on the three R’s and a spanking did not work so well as some persons seem to think. I could prove that the problem has grown past the point where instinct and tradition may be held as sufficient to solve it. Everyone, seeing these letters, would be obliged to confess, “Yes, indeed, here is plain need of training for parents.” Yet, at the same time, these same persons would be tempted to inquire, “But can any training meet such a difficult situation?”
Here is despair; and some cause for it. When one’s own mother has not understood one; when one has lived lonely in the midst of brothers and sisters who are more strange than strangers; when one’s childhood is full of the memory of obscure but intense sufferings, one flies for relief, perhaps, to any one who offers it hopefully enough; but one does not really expect to get it. Can training, especially by correspondence, meet the need?
Not wholly, of course, let us be frank to admit. No amount of theory, however excellent, can take the place of the drill given only in the hard school of experience. But when the theory is not merely theory, but sound principle, based on scientific observation, confirmed by the wide experience of many persons, it is as valuable in practical life as any rule of mathematics to the practical engineer. We all know that the technical correspondence schools really do fit young mechanics to move on and up in the trade. By correspondence he is given what Froebel calls the interpreting word. The experience in application the student has to supply himself.