Sunday, June 10, 2012

the "normal motive" of boys...

Gilbert B. Morrison, principal of the William McKinley High School of St. Louis wrote in Manual Training Magazine, Volume IX, 1908:
"Normal motives appeal to normal boys. The average boy wants an education; he wants to become a useful man; he wants the pleasure which comes from a sense of power to do things as men do them; he is willing to work for his power and for the skill which brings it. We do not forget the importance of learning to think, but the importance of learning to work (thoughtfully) is paramount. The joy of systematic, skillful, successful work when it is well timed is as great as the joy of play. There is an occasional boy who will not readily respond to normal motives—the lazy, spoiled boy whose ambition is measured by the selfish gratification he experiences from moment to moment in his amusements. For him we may sometimes be justified in resorting to molycoddling methods. We may allow him to "make something" which suits his fancy in the hope that he may be led to see for himself the importance of systematic work."
Children are in no danger of becoming completely disconnected from their hands. The hands and brain are so hard-wired to each other, that one needs no more than a moment watching a child text-messaging a friend to know that the hands and brain comprise an integrated system of learning with potential productive capacity. The question becomes "for what?" We seem to have been raising a whole generation in desperate need of molycoddling. I am reminded of my friend Tom who grew up on a very small, very poor farm south of town. Tom recalls as a transforming moment in his life, when his mother told him (as a twelve year old) that dinner that night was to be up to him. There was little food in the house and if Tom wanted to eat, he needed to hunt. He went out with his rifle and killed and cleaned two squirrels and a rabbit and began to sense that he was to become a man.

We molycoddle our children all over the place, giving them toys, amusements and distractions thinking perhaps things have changed. And yet, the inclination in the hearts (and hands) of children is to become grown men and women with real powers, real potentials, and the capacity to do manly things and accept womanly responsibilities. It is as simple as that. If we were to mollycoddle our children into wood shops where they might do real things, developing skill in the creation of beautiful and useful objects to serve family and community, our schools and our culture would benefit enormously in the process.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Anonymous5:33 AM

    Well said by Mr. Morrison, although I wouldn't characterize getting those spoiled boys to do things as mollycoddling.


  2. Mario,
    Can you imagine having to tell boys to DO something? Doing stuff is what kids (and particularly boys) are most inclined to do!

    Mollycoddling, I guess was where kids had to be coaxed off their stools due to them having been spoiled in the first place.

    When I was a kid, I was so curious about everything I had to be told to "get back out of the way." Give kids real things to do in school, right from the start, and you wouldn't see the problems teachers have now.