Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Training of attention

The following is from The Educational Meaning of Manual Arts and Industries by Robert Keable Row, 1909.

Training Attention
Psychologists and other teachers are agreed that the most important work in intellectual education is the development of the power of prolonged, concentrated attention. The ability to apprehend facts, to comprehend all the conditions that pertain to a particular situation, to compare and see relations, hence to exercise good judgment, all depends upon this power of attention. We know also, that attention is conditioned by interest, in other words, by the motive. We attend to that in which we are interested, that which we have some motive for considering. All our voluntary activities are directed toward some end, the attainment of something we consider of value. It is a pathetic truism that a considerable percentage of our children become indifferent, idle, troublesome, and eventually leave school because so much of the work provided does not appeal to them as of value. They have no genuine motive for doing it... This psychologic theory has been confirmed by experience. Among the most obvious results of the introduction of manual arts and domestic science into the schools is the fact that many more pupils continue in a school a much longer time than before these lines of work were introduced.

This should require no argument. Many children have no direct interest in much of the work assigned in school. The skillful teacher finds a way of supplying an indirect interest, and if this works well a direct interest may develop. But practically all children have a direct interest in well-planned work in manual arts and industries. When a boy elects to make himself a sled, or a girl an apron, there is a genuine motive for every step in the process. The end is seen more or less clearly from the beginning. Each step is planned and executed with reference to the whole. Nothing can be done right without due attention. If mistakes are made they must be corrected. The more complex the project, and the more the worker is left to his own initiative and self direction, the more attention he must give to it, hence, the more training he gets. It follows, then, that under right methods of training (see Chapter XVI) work in the shop, the kitchen, the garden, etc., provides most favorable conditions for developing the power and the habit of attention.

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