Sunday, July 21, 2013

the child's impulses...

Robert Keable Row in the Educational Meaning of Manual Arts and Industries, 1909, attempted to make use of educational psychology by describing the child as a set of impulses as follows: The impulse to sensation, the motor impulse, the impulse to play, the social impulse, the impulse to imitate, the impulse to construct, the impulse to experiment, the artistic impulse, the impulse to own or to possess, and he further describes all these as interconnected as a "unity of impulses." All of these can be analyzed as contributing to the interests of the child.

How we decide to regard children's impulses is one of the first philosophical decisions we would make in designing the structure of an ideal school. Robert Keable Row suggests ways we can address impulses. First, we can simply ignore them, set up the "ideal character to be developed," and attempt to set up a course of instruction for all children regardless of individual personality.
"If the child does not seem to profit by the instruction or objects to the training, ignore the fact or impress upon him that what he likes or dislikes to do cannot be taken into account, that his parents and teachers know best what will be for his future good and he must, willy nilly, be guided by them."
A second commonplace view of impulses is that those impulses are of no use, that they conflict with the interests of educators. Play is thought to yield nothing of value, the constructive impulse is too often destructive, as "The child simply spoils materials and tools and produces nothing of value." In this view, children's impulses are to be purposefully suppressed.
"Instead of building play houses, and mock forts and crude boats he should be learning to read and write and spell, because though he may have little interest in these tings now, they will be useful to him later. The impulses of the child should be suppressed and supplanted by interests and habits that will be of value to him in later life."
If either of these sounds familiar to you, you may be an observer of American education. The effects are as Row describes:
"To ignore the impulses named would be the same in principle as to ignore the impulse to take food, to take rest and sleep, or to seek companionship. It would be to ignore the very force of the child's being. It would fail to take account of and would allow to operate at random the most fundamental conditions of life and development. To restrain or suppress them would be analogous to impairing the digestion and restricting respiration and circulation. It would retard or check growth and result in a dwarfed individual."
Robert Keable Row offers the manual arts as being the best means available to engage children in the exercise of the whole set of normal creative impulses. If that idea sounds unfamiliar to you, you are an observer of American education. If it sounds familiar, you may either be a regular reader of this blog, or you may have taken some notice of the creative expressions of your hands in your own life.

Make, fix and create...

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