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Order Of Development Of Our Interests

The order in which our interests develop thus becomes an important
question in our education. Nor is the order an arbitrary one, as might
appear on first thought; for interest follows the invariable law of
attaching to the activity for which the organism is at that time ready,
and which it then needs in its further growth. That we are sometimes
interested in harmful things does not disprove this assertion. The
interest in its fundamental aspect is good, and but needs more healthful
environment or more wise direction. While space forbids a full
discussion of the genetic phase of interest here, yet we may profit by a
brief statement of the fundamental interests of certain well-marked
periods in our development.

THE INTERESTS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD.--The interests of early childhood are
chiefly connected with ministering to the wants of the organism as
expressed in the appetites, and in securing control of the larger
muscles. Activity is the preeminent thing--racing and romping are worth
doing for their own sake alone. Imitation is strong, curiosity is
rising, and imagination is building a new world. Speech is a joy,
language is learned with ease, and rhyme and rhythm become second
nature. The interests of this stage are still very direct and immediate.
A distant end does not attract. The thing must be worth doing for the
sake of the doing. Since the young child's life is so full of action,
and since it is out of acts that habits grow, it is doubly desirous
during this period that environment, models, and teaching should all
direct his interests and activities into lines that will lead to
permanent values.

THE INTERESTS OF LATER CHILDHOOD.--In the period from second dentition
to puberty there is a great widening in the scope of interests, as well
as a noticeable change in their character. Activity is still the
keynote; but the child is no longer interested merely in the doing, but
is now able to look forward to the end sought. Interests which are
somewhat indirect now appeal to him, and the how of things attracts his
attention. He is beginning to reach outside of his own little circle,
and is ready for handicraft, reading, history, and science. Spelling,
writing, and arithmetic interest him partly from the activities
involved, but more as a means to an end.

Interest in complex games and plays increases, but the child is not yet
ready for games which require team work. He has not come to the point
where he is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of all. Interest
in moral questions is beginning, and right and wrong are no longer
things which may or may not be done without rebuke or punishment. The
great problem at this stage is to direct the interest into ways of
adapting the means to ends and into willingness to work under voluntary
attention for the accomplishment of the desired end.

THE INTERESTS OF ADOLESCENCE.--Finally, with the advent of puberty,
comes the last stage in the development of interests before adult life.
This period is not marked by the birth of new interests so much as by a
deepening and broadening of those already begun. The end sought becomes
an increasingly larger factor, whether in play or in work. Mere activity
itself no longer satisfies. The youth can now play team games; for his
social interests are taking shape, and he can subordinate himself for
the good of the group. Interest in the opposite sex takes on a new
phase, and social form and mode of dress receive attention. A new
consciousness of self emerges, and the youth becomes introspective.
Questions of the ultimate meaning of things press for solution, and what
and who am I, demands an answer.

At this age we pass from a regime of obedience to one of self-control,
from an ethics of authority to one of individualism. All the interests
are now taking on a more definite and stable form, and are looking
seriously toward life vocations. This is a time of big plans and
strenuous activity. It is a crucial period in our life, fraught with
pitfalls and dangers, with privileges and opportunities. At this
strategic point in our life's voyage we may anchor ourselves with right
interests to a safe manhood and a successful career; or we may, with
wrong interests, bind ourselves to a broken life of discouragement and

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