Menticulture - Corroborative And Assistive Criticism

( Originally Published 1901 )

It frequently happens that the criticisms brought out by a book are more valuable to the object of the book than is the book itself; and with this appreciation of the criticisms of the chapters of the early editions of Menticulture, I have gathered fragments from the press and beg leave to add them under the above caption.

I have used the word "assistive" because the word "assistant " is commonly understood to mean subordinate, while the criticisms referred to are co-ordinate at least, and in my appreciation suj5erordinate; and it is to accentuate this that I am impelled to use an unusual term.

Since Menticulture was first published, the author has received upwards of a thousand letters, many of which could properly be quoted under the caption of " Scraps of Evidence," as the greater number of them attest to benefits derived from the suggestions of the book. In considering the advisability of adding criticisms to the original brochure, many of these letters were selected for printing, but the great number of the desirable ones, and the difficulty of choosing between them, led to the determination to print none of them rather than to unjustly discriminate.

Revision was also under consideration. It was recognized that the presentation was inadequate to the importance of the subject, and could be re-written to advantage; but at the same time the evidence of the commendation received suggested that, as it had seemed to be effective in its present form in finding sympathy and approval, it were better to let it stand as originally printed.

Within the past few years there has been a great deal of attention given to the consideration of menticulture, in one form or another and under different names, so that scarcely a magazine is issued that does not contain an article on the evil effects of fear and the desirability of repressing the passions that are grouped under the class names of anger and worry. The philosophy of Froebel, which is being developed and taught in the kindergartens, is doing greatest good in this direction. Child-thought is studied, and the effect of suggestions is carefully noted to determine how they are impressed into, or .upon, the character of children.

The first care in the kindergarten is to avoid teaching or permitting fear of the teacher, so that the confidence of the child can be secured for the purpose of better administering instruction. Children are taught to mentally construct ideas and not alone to memorize the appearance of the ideas to know the why and the how of everything including their own mental process.

If this kindergarten method were carried on through the entire course of study, even to the university, the benefit of instruction would be much greater than it is now.

The effect of teaching in the schools is thought by some to be more lasting than the effect of parental teaching and example, for parents largely are taken as a matter of course almost as parts of the child itself while teachers, in the eyes of the average child, stand for chosen models of wisdom and propriety, and are supposed to be in reality what they seem to be when they show only their best side to their pupils. For this reason, with children so impressed, the example or the instruction of the teacher is more impressive than that of the parent.

For a term of years I happened to have a half-dozen large cities under observation by reason of frequent visits to them, and differences of characteristics of these cities, as distinct as differing characteristics in men, were notable by comparison. In the cities where the control of the public schools was in the hands of ward politicians, the effect upon the morals of these cities, as influenced by the morals of teachers politically chosen, was marked and essentially bad. Favorites of members of the Boards of Education were appointed as teachers; the salaries of the teachers, in order to satisfy these favorites, were inordinately high, as compared with the salaries in other cities where the quality of the service was much better; scandals were rife and disgustingly frequent; and, as a result, a decade of this subtile influence developed crops of loose morals and consequent scandals in the whole community that were a reproach to the cities thus afflicted.

In the one large city of the country where the school fund was very limited, the inducements held out to the teachers were so small that they were insufficient to tempt the cupidity of those who were immorally inclined, and hence the politicians did not bother with the patronage of the schools, leaving good citizens to administer the school' department; and the effect of pure example on the growing generation was markedly good as compared with other cities, and developed a crop of good morals that show their merit in immunity from scandal.

In political schools that is, in the schools where the patronage is sought by the politicians teaching is secondary, and salary drawing is the primary consideration; lessons are given out by rule and heard by rule, without being wisely interpreted by the teacher; and reward or punishment is applied by rule also, without reference to the effort of the honest or the deceit of the cunning pupil.

Reference to various methods of managing education is a digression, and is used only to call attention to the value of the kindergarten method by the difference. . Menticulture must soon become the course of first importance in all teaching, in order that education in schools may keep pace with the acceleration of progress in other things, and it has begun in the so-called kindergartens, only to end with the last teaching in life, for it soon will be recognized as the branch of cultivation that is the source of all power and the germ of all strength.

The salaries of teachers cannot be too high in comparison with the remuneration awarded to other occupations, if the choice of teachers be rightly made and not left to the selection of depraved professional politics.

The matter of teaching menticulture, as being the branch of education that is of first importance and as being the basis of all learning and of all skill, can only receive mention here, but consideration of it will be an important part of one of the " Menticulture Series," of which this is the first, and Happiness, as found in Forethought minus Fearthought, just published, is the second. The development of the idea of germeradication of the deterrents to harmony and growth in the individual is necessarily but the beginning of a sequence. It must continue its good influence from individual experience out into the community comprised within the visual horizon of the emancipated individual, and from the smaller community still outwards to a horizon bounded only by the limits of the nation, and finally to the whole world.

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