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EDUCATING THE ADOLESCENT: A QUESTION OF
By E. M. WHITE.
Of all the methods of civilization which have been shown to be in need of reconstruction, those which govern education are the most important. Education is concerned with the moulding of those who will in turn shape the world which is to be. A most sorry training do many of our adolescents receive in preparation for this their high destiny! Especially is this the case with young people at the age when ideals can be most easily adopted, and when the need for a purpose in life begins to be felt. During adolescence what do we urge most upon pupils? In most cases it is the necessity of doing well at examinations; and our classifications follow the same sordid standard. The desire for good results rules the time-table, with the consequence that everything but subjects that will gain marks is excluded. Of course, this still allows for a large amount of useful and inspiring teaching to be given; but the criterion is wrong.
To take the one instance of civics, the real aim of which is to arouse a spirit of citizenship : this is not an examination subject, and therefore it finds no place in the curriculum for those thought to be of sufficient capacity to take senior examinations, and this includes a section who particularly need such a study-intending teachers. Thus the tyranny of the written test comes to dominate not only the time-table, but also the attitude towards the relative value of the subjects to be taught. It is not implied that examinations are quite unnecessary evils, for there must be some tests of skill and knowledge, though the present ones are not adequate. But the curriculum of the school should not converge to examinations, and the aim of education should be definitely towards the imparting of an attitude to life rather than the collection of knowledge.
Another tyranny is less necessary than examinations (which, at any rate, are imposed by an authority outside the school), and that is the multiplicity of small rules determining almost every movement of the pupil. Good discipline is an atmosphere and mode of conduct rather than obedience to rules, and should be attained by other means than by numerous regulations which crush spontaneity and weaken independence of character. It may be a far easier task to rule children
dulled by rules, but it is also a more ignoble one, and it postpones the sense of responsibility that should emerge with adolescence. The practice of self-government strengthens the faculty for it, and with more scope for initiative a more self-reliant and courageous manhood and womanhood would appear. Why should a “Little Commonwealth.” be established for the worst characters and not for the best?
If, instead of preparation for the highest examination, the aim was training for the fullest life, education would be differently orientated. Expressed quite briefly, every adolescent should (a) be cognizant of the broad story of civilization on this earth and of the tendencies of to-day. (b) Realize the values of various aspects of life : labour and its products, the basis on which our existence rests; the things of the mind and spirit-art, poetry, science, philosophy, ideals.
(c) Be inspired with the conception and aim of service. What can I do to take my share? should be his question on entering the world, which in turn awaits the touch of the new generations. And youth should be furnished with ample instances of what has been done and what needs doing
The first point requires no academic details in its treatment: a broad and accurate knowledge of the periods in the progress of mankind's evolution in all spheres of life can be given; and this need not preclude the exactness of science nor the more intensive study of any “ subjects” later on. But at first the world should be looked at as a whole, and the comprehension of a gradual growth stamped on the mind as it expands. At the background should always be the vast unity of a great though slow 'progress. Imagination and poetic feeling must be cultivated in order to see the end desired, and also a sense of beauty and order, so that the wish arises to bring that end about. One or two suggestions may be given of methods by which the present may be linked on to the past in man's history. Civics has already been mentioned, and it may form a link geographically as well as chronologically, for the village, town, or city is inevitably a part of a larger whole. Another series of lessons could deal with History in the Making--the main events of the present day being taken and their significance noted. On all sides it is agreed that preparation for citizenship is necessary; these two aspects of the great world form worthy introductions to it.
Perhaps it may not be out of place to mention here another subject : that will later on come to be handled in schools—that of sex hygiene. Public opinion is not yet ready for its introduction, nor are teachers
yet prepared to give open instruction in the subject with art and delicacy as well as physiological accuracy. But it cannot be slurred over, and the sense of older people's objection to discussion, felt by the young, must disappear; such weak " shying" at the question of sex merely leads to the gaining of furtive knowledge and the instilling of a sense of sin. It must be remembered that few adolescents have the opportunity of gaining knowledge of what is to them a vital and interesting fact, either openly or without coarseness or jokes. And this should not be.
But the imparting of knowledge—which is the main result of studying for examinations-is only a minor portion of true education. Evoking a spirit and training an attitude are nobler aims to which the other should be subordinated. Not only with regard to knowledge, but also as regards his outlook on life and the world and himself must vouth be prepared. And here the second point will give direction, for if the exposition of fundamental facts of existence and its preservation be shown, if all subjects touched upon are seen in correlation with the rest of life, and, above all, if the whole is invested with living interest, there would be little of that lamentable relief so often felt at the end of school life, which sighs : I need never think about that subject any more. All teaching should be interesting, and even when difficulties have to be overcome the pupils should have them so presented that they set about their task with willing energy ; otherwise the real purpose of the particular subject is frustrated. And the final aim, the inspiration to Service, ever beckons. In various schools a certain lip-service is given to the ideal of character-training, but if the methods are examined it will often be found that they consist chiefly of reproof, or punishment or moralizing, none of which are effective or inspiring. It would be a healthy exercise for many of those in charge of adolescents to endeavour to obtain the real opinions of their pupils—if by borrowing the cap of darkness they could overhear conversations or peep into diaries, or even allow frank expression of ideas, and not be shocked or angry at what they discovered, nor regard the question from the point of view of what young people ought to think. Before sympathetic relationships with young minds can be established, the point to ascertain is what they do think, and why they think it. So much well-intentioned effort on the part of adults is rendered futile on account of its psychological falsity. And with all their earnest endeavour, conscientious adhesion to authority, and hard work, very many teachers of adolescents are lacking in the quality of “humanness," and maintain an aloofness and academic outlook that act as effectve bars to fertile intercourse with their pupils. An increase of sensitiveness to the feelings and hopes of young lives is needed; and a change of attitude towards escapades and minor faults would result in their diminution. Real respect, not that enforced by outward signs, would be given to a teacher in whose judgment the pupils put trust, and on whose justice and sincerity they relied. And when trust and respect are given, the semi-antagonism so often present in considering the standards of adults will disappear, and in its place will be engendered an attitude open to the favourable acceptance of ideals that the pupils feel are worthy of admiration. Mere success at examinations can never stir the · pulse to high endeavour, but the conception of carrying a torch taken from the past and handing it to the future with a brighter flame is one that, presented with dramatic force by an honoured teacher, will touch the soul of youth to fine issues.
ABSTRACTS AND EXTRACTS.
Under this heading are gathered thoughts from literature, both ancient and modern, which seek to
provide information likely to be of assistance to students of child life and practical workers for child welfare. It is hoped that our readers will co-operate in making this section both suggestive and serviceable.
THE RATIONING OF CHILDREN.
Lord Rhondda, Sir Arthur Yapp and their co-workers are doing their utmost
conserve the food supplies of the nation, and to enlighten us in regard to facts and guide us in the adoption of principles and practices, which shall enable each individual to do his and her part in winning the War. And the children must understand and participate. But it is essential to remember that each child is a citizen in the making, and we cannot afford to starve the growing child of to-day lest we impair the efficiency of our men and women in the coming morrow. It is essential that study must be devoted to school dietaries and the selection of food and the provision of meals not only in educational and other establishments for children, but in the homes of the people. There is good reason to believe that in many families children are still overfed and allowed to waste food; and it seems probable that in many homes and orphanages and also in certain public schools growing children are suffering from an insufficiency of proper food. The whole matter demands serious study. Important letters have recently appeared in the Times Educational Supplement and elsewhere which appear to offer evidence that in some homes and institutions an unwise and unscientific rationing of school children is being attempted. We have no hesitation in strongly condemning “starv. ation days” for boys and girls. Some other form of sacrifice should be possible than the impairment of physical powers by the cutting down of necessary supplies for nutrition and growth. Head masters and others responsible for the welfare of developing children and adolescents should not attempt any strict system of rationing unless with the approval of their medical advisers, to
whom all schemes for the cutting down of food should be submitted. The provision of
meals cannot be governed by haphazard considerations, but must be regulated by ascertained facts concerning food values. In the October issue of the Edinburgh Medical Journal, in the section under the charge of Drs. W. B. Drummond and A. Ding wall Fordyce, appears a communication on “Rations for Boys' Military Training Camps," which contains such valuable data that we make no apology for reproducing it in this journal : “ It has been estimated that a healthy baby nursed at the breast drinks in twentyfour hours an amount of milk roughly corresponding to one-seventh of his body weight, or, in other words, daily food of the value of 100 calories per kilogram of body weight. Of these 100 calories, protein supplies 12, carbohydrate 41, and fat 47. During the second week of life, then, a breast-fed baby who weighs 8 lb. requires rather more than 350 calories food value --protein 42, carbohydrate 143, fat 165 daily (i.e., 17 oz. of milk). In the case of adults, while formerly 3,000 to 3,500 calories daily was a widely accepted estimate of the requirements for an average active man, the work of Chittenden went to show that this allowance was excessive, and particularly so with regard to the protein elements. War experience forcibly brings home the importance of scientifically feeding hard-worked soldiers under varying conditions and in a variety of climes. It also has stimulated investigations into the needs of adolescents. Fitch (“Rations for Boys' Military Training Camps," Pediatrics, April, 1917) quotes Du Bois, who has shown by calori. metric experiment at the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology that the actual food requirements of young boys is 25 per cent, above that of the adult. Gephart, as the result of an investigation into the actual amounts of nourishment taken by more than 300 boys in one of the largest private boarding schools in the United States, found that the individual daily