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Education And The Training Of The Nervous System

Fortunately, many of the best opportunities for sensory and motor
training do not depend on schools or courses of study. The world is full
of stimuli to our senses and to our social natures; and our common lives
are made up of the responses we make to these stimuli,--the movements,
acts and deeds by which we fit ourselves into our world of environment.
Undoubtedly the most rapid and vital progress we make in our development
is accomplished in the years before we have reached the age to go to
school. Yet it is the business of education to see that we do not lack
any essential opportunity, to make sure that necessary lines of stimuli
or of motor training have not been omitted from our development.

problem of education is, on the physical side, it would seem, then, to
provide for ourselves and those we seek to educate as rich an
environment of sensory and social stimuli as possible; one whose
impressions will be full of suggestions to response in motor activity
and the higher thought processes; and then to give opportunity for
thought and for expression in acts and deeds in the largest possible
number of lines. And added to this must be frequent and clear sensory
and motor recall, a living over again of the sights and sounds and odors
and the motor activities we have once experienced. There must also be
the opportunity for the forming of worthy plans and ideals. For in this
way the brain centers which were concerned in the original sensation or
thought or movement are again brought into exercise, and their
development continued. Through recall and imagination we are able not
only greatly to multiply the effects of the immediate sensory and motor
stimuli which come to us, but also to improve our power of thinking by
getting a fund of material upon which the mind can draw.

which the powers of the nervous system shall develop. And we must follow
this order if we would obtain the best results. Stated in technical
terms, the order is from fundamental to accessory. This is to say that
the nerve centers controlling the larger and more general movements of
the body ripen first, and those governing the finer motor adjustments
later. For example, the larger body muscles of the child which are
concerned with sitting up come under control earlier than those
connected with walking. The arm muscles develop control earlier than the
finger muscles, and the head and neck muscles earlier than the eye
muscles. So also the more general and less highly specialized powers of
the mind ripen sooner than the more highly specialized. Perception and
observation precede powers of critical judgment and association. Memory
and imagination ripen earlier than reasoning and the logical ability.

This all means that our educational system must be planned to follow the
order of nature. Children of the primary grades should not be required
to write with fine pencils or pens which demand delicate finger
adjustments, since the brain centers for these finer cooerdinations are
not yet developed. Young children should not be set at work
necessitating difficult eye control, such as stitching through
perforated cardboard, reading fine print and the like, as their eyes
are not yet ready for such tasks. The more difficult analytical problems
of arithmetic and relations of grammar should not be required of pupils
at a time when the association areas of the brain are not yet ready for
this type of thinking. For such methods violate the law of nature, and
the child is sure to suffer the penalty.

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