« AnteriorContinuar »
truths, like that of "King Midas and the Golden Touch," may well become a part of the "invisible world of the child," "the fire-mist heaven," "the chaos that precedes the spiritual life?" as Colonel Parker calls the world of the child's imagination. Let the story be told and told and told again, if the children care for it! In the fullness of time when from the "fire-mist heaven" an ordered world is evolved, the soul of the story will draw its own body of thought and conduct to it; only let it be remembered the story will do its own work better unspoiled by a sermon.
Other myths, like the story of the whispering reeds which told the secret of King Midas' ears, teach prosaic virtues, such as prudence, altho these are better taught by the folk-lore stories which are to the myth as "Poor Richard's Almanac" to "Emerson's Essays."
The answer which would be promptly given in many teachers' assemblies as to the value of the study of the myth would be, "That the children may understand allusions in literature." There is here a curious reversal of values. The proposition is hardly more tenable than it would be when made in regard to history. We do not study the stories of Valley Forge and Bunker Hill in order that we may understand allusions to them. We study them for the spiritual values that are in them. In like manner we study the Hebraic and Hellenic myths out of which so much of our poetry, so much of our deepest thought, has sprung, that we, too, all unskilled in the art of verse as we are, may be poets; that our brains may be afire with the beauty of the myth-images; our hearts stirred with their interplay of feeling. We shall understand the allusions, yes, but that will be incidental; and if to us Orpheus and Psyche and Perseus are but names to ornament a rhyme, we have seen neither into the heart of the myth nor the heart of the poet.
In the upper grammar grades the study of the myth would naturally change its form, becoming, to some extent, the study of mythology.
The following passages, the first from Tylor's "Primitive Culture," the second from Froude, are suggestive of what should be gained from this phase of study:
"The treatment of similar myths from different regions, by arranging them in large compared groups, makes it possible to trace in mythology the operation of imaginative processes recur
ring with the evident regularity of mental law; and these stories. of which a single instance would have been a mere isolated curiosity, take their place among well marked and consistent structures of the human mind. Myth may be more uniform than history.
"We, with the glorious present which is opening before us, we shall never enter into it until we have learnt to see in that past not error, but installment of truth, hard-fought-for truth, wrung out with painful and heroic effort."
Mythology, from this point of view, is a study of the scientific, mythical, and religious development of the human race. I am not suggesting a formal study of comparative mythology for children in the elementary schools, but surely a child of thirteen. may easily see the similarities in the myth-products of different peoples in like stages of development. We can only-á phrase we use much oftener for the primary classes than for the grammar grades--establish an apperceptive center. But the grammar grade pupil may gain possession of the germ of the idea that human development along religious and ethical lines follows fixed laws; that the truth of today is only the blossom of the truth of yesterday, and that the truth of tomorrow will be only the fruit of the truth of today.
With this once understood his study of the truth of yesterday becomes more reverent, and he is not dismayed when he beholds, as he must, the truth of today changing its form.
These are points which I have tried to make in regard to mythstudy: (1) The myth expresses a great reality in man's experience; (2) in the exercise of the free imagination the mind's powers grow; (3) the fine play about non-moral ideas fostered by some of the myths is wholesome; (4) rightly chosen, some of the myths become in the fullness of time, since we think by analogy, a moral force; (5) the value of the knowledge of mythology consists not in our ability to find the meaning of allusions, but in the fact that our mental and spiritual condition is such that the meaning of the allusions must inevitably find us; (6) through myth-study a basis for true knowledge of the laws of spiritual and mental development is gained.
Myth, then, as I see it, is not preparatory history nor supplementary to it, but each is complementary to the other. History deals with the outer, myth with the inner man, because, as Tylor
truly says, "Myth is the history, not of its subjects, but of its authors." Hence, paradoxical as it seems, in history man tries. to tell the truth, in myth he quite certainly tells the truth to him who listens aright. It is only as we think of myth so, as the history of the human soul, that it ceases to be childish fable, and we know that truly Theseus slew the Minotaur and Perseus the Gorgon, and that the tragic end of the fatal hunt of Calydon was inevitable.
I have said nothing of the uses of either myth or history as language-material, and for this reason: if given an opportunity the child will express what is in his soul. If the myth and history taught are worthy to become a part of the child's soul-stuff he will express what they have brought him when the opportunity offers.
JUST A LITTLE BABY.*
FLORA J. ROBERTSON.
UST a little baby with a tiny, velvet face,
That rests against his mother's with such a tender grace,
With his precious little feet that kick when he cries,
Holding on to mother with a power that commands;
Just a little baby, to be taught by woman's skill,
To be nourished and developed by the power of woman's will;
For the things that make good training are not done by "might and main,"
But by subtle, unseen forces always flowing from the brain. Just a little baby, but he's "father to the man,"
Who must be tried and tempted in the universal plan; Who must grow from youth to manhood in the slow and winding way,
As a plant unfolds its beauty in the magic light of day. Just a little baby, sometimes clothed and sometimes bare, Sometimes ragged, dirty, ugly-sometimes sweet and fair; Oh, mother heart of woman, your mission is your call,
If you fail to train these babies are you mothers after all?
*Written for the Mothers' Club of Brookland, D. C.
HOW FROEBEL PLANNED TO FOSTER THE CHILD'S
POWERS IN LANGUAGE.
MRS. ALICE H. PUTNAM, CHICAGO FROEBEL ASSOCIATION.*
ODAY, when the educational psychologist is abroad in the land, one treads on dangerous ground in standing for any method which does not rest on a principle which is inherent in the conditions of the being to be educated. Without some knowledge of the aims and possibilities of development in any given method we cannot judge correctly of its value. Therefore, to decide on the worth of Froebel's idea in this case we must look at the language-situation of a young child. The little baby begins his operations in oral language by means of sensations, for, if sounds are to be intelligently made, says Tracy, they must first be heard. The child makes his first utterances, whether of pain or pleasure, simply because he cannot help it. Whence comes this desire and power? I do not know, save that it is from within- preferably from heredity, for we know that the "child is the fruit of the past, as well as the seed-corn of the future."
Preyer, Perez, Taine, Sully, and many others, have shown something of the processes in the growth of a child's language. It is enough for our discussion today to say that the power to hear and to make sounds comes very early, and that before the baby has ended the first year of his life he makes sounds that are intelligible, and gives back these which others make.
Here again we are thrown back to the question of aim or purpose in this particular plan of development. Froebel says that "the function of the educator in any subject consists, above all, in helping everybody to observe his own life, and to act it out according to its being and its demands. In such a life the personality is purified and viewed in the mirror of the experiences of others, as in the natural life of man and mankind, in the mirror of nature, of history, and of revelation." To be quite sure that this idea spoken so long ago holds good in our day and generation, we place side by side with it Professor Small's statement in the "Demands of Sociology on Pedagogy." He says: "The end of all
*Read before the Kindergarten Department of the N. E. A. at Minneapolis, 1902.
education is, first, the completion of the individual, and, second, which is implied in the first, the adaptation of the individual to such coöperation with the society in which his lot is cast, that he works with the society in perfecting its own type, in creating conditions more favorable to the development of a more perfect individual."
All thru the past the little child has been led to "observe his own life," to increase his individual power in language by the instinctive response of the mother to the child's effort. This is true in the development of written and picture expression, as well as in that which comes first, oral language. "But more potent than all external stimuli," writes Froebel, "is the child's passionate impulse toward a development of his own being, which shall be on the one hand spontaneous, on the other, in accord with the universal trend of life." The aid to be offered is to be determined by the child's progressive needs.
I think it will help us to keep clearly in mind the child's language-stages, if I borrow an analogy from a prominent geologist who, in speaking of the earth, says: "Each special characteristic area of its surface has its prenatal conditions, its birth, babyhood, its childhood, maturity, old age, and decay." Froebel certainly recognizes something akin to this in the processes of that form of expression which we are considering. There is the prenatal formation of the organs of speech and hearing. There is a time after birth when these are quite at the mercy of surrounding conditions-when there is little, if any, power of resistance to what is external-when all that is to nourish the language-power of the child comes to him unconsciously and, we might almost say, vicariously. It is just here that Froebel's scheme begins to ultimate itself. The child himself, we must remember, is the prime factor in the problem; but the mother's love, the mother's song and mother's play, are also very vital ones. Froebel appeals at once to the "working energy" of the child, no matter how slight that may be, and tho the child himself is altogether unconscious of the outcome of his efforts. Because he does hear, because he will soon listen, the old master considers it worth while to give something that has a hearing and a listening value. Froebel read, as who that has eyes to see has not read in a mother's open book of life, with her baby in her arms, something not only of the "joy of things to be," but the delights