Other Useful Instincts
Many other instincts ripen during the stage of youth and play their part
in the development of the individual.
CURIOSITY.--It is inherent in every normal person to want to investigate
and know. The child looks out with wonder and fascination on a world
he does not understand, and at once begins to ask questions and try
experiments. Every new object is approached in a spirit of inquiry.
Interest is omnivorous, feeding upon every phase of environment. Nothing
is too simple or too complex to demand attention and exploration, so
that it vitally touches the child's activities and experience.
The momentum given the individual by curiosity toward learning and
mastering his world is incalculable. Imagine the impossible task of
teaching children what they had no desire or inclination to know! Think
of trying to lead them to investigate matters concerning which they felt
only a supreme indifference! Indeed one of the greatest problems of
education is to keep curiosity alive and fresh so that its compelling
influence may promote effort and action. One of the greatest secrets of
eternal youth is also found in retaining the spontaneous curiosity of
youth after the youthful years are past.
MANIPULATION.--This is the rather unsatisfactory name for the universal
tendency to handle, do or make something. The young child builds
with its blocks, constructs fences and pens and caves and houses, and a
score of other objects. The older child, supplied with implements and
tools, enters upon more ambitious projects and revels in the joy of
creation as he makes boats and boxes, soldiers and swords, kites,
play-houses and what-not. Even as adults we are moved by a desire to
express ourselves through making or creating that which will represent
our ingenuity and skill. The tendency of children to destroy is not from
wantonness, but rather from a desire to manipulate.
Education has but recently begun to make serious use of this important
impulse. The success of all laboratory methods of teaching, and of such
subjects as manual training and domestic science, is abundant proof of
the adage that we learn by doing. We would rather construct or
manipulate an object than merely learn its verbal description. Our
deepest impulses lead to creation rather than simple mental
appropriation of facts and descriptions.
THE COLLECTING INSTINCT.--The words my and mine enter the child's
vocabulary at a very early age. The sense of property ownership and the
impulse to make collections of various kinds go hand in hand. Probably
there are few of us who have not at one time or another made collections
of autographs, postage stamps, coins, bugs, or some other thing of as
little intrinsic value. And most of us, if we have left youth behind,
are busy even now in seeking to collect fortunes, works of art, rare
volumes or other objects on which we have set our hearts.
The collecting instinct and the impulse to ownership can be made
important agents in the school. The child who, in nature study,
geography or agriculture, is making a collection of the leaves, plants,
soils, fruits, or insects used in the lessons has an incentive to
observation and investigation impossible from book instruction alone.
One who, in manual training or domestic science, is allowed to own the
article made will give more effort and skill to its construction than if
the work be done as a mere school task.
THE DRAMATIC INSTINCT.--Every person is, at one stage of his
development, something of an actor. All children like to dress up and
impersonate someone else--in proof of which, witness the many play
scenes in which the character of nurse, doctor, pirate, teacher,
merchant or explorer is taken by children who, under the stimulus of
their spontaneous imagery and as yet untrammeled by self-consciousness,
freely enter into the character they portray. The dramatic impulse never
wholly dies out. When we no longer aspire to do the acting ourselves we
have others do it for us in the theaters or the movies.
Education finds in the dramatic instinct a valuable aid. Progressive
teachers are using it freely, especially in the teaching of literature
and history. Its application to these fields may be greatly increased,
and also extended more generally to include religion, morals, and art.
THE IMPULSE TO FORM GANGS AND CLUBS.--Few boys and girls grow up without
belonging at some time to a secret gang, club or society. Usually this
impulse grows out of two different instincts, the social and the
adventurous. It is fundamental in our natures to wish to be with our
kind--not only our human kind, but those of the same age, interests and
ambitions. The love of secrecy and adventure is also deep seated in us.
So we are clannish; and we love to do the unusual, to break away from
the commonplace and routine of our lives. There is often a thrill of
satisfaction--even if it be later followed by remorse--in doing the
forbidden or the unconventional.
The problem here as in the case of many other instincts is one of
guidance rather than of repression. Out of the gang impulse we may
develop our athletic teams, our debating and dramatic clubs, our
tramping clubs, and a score of other recreational, benevolent, or
social organizations. Not repression, but proper expression should be
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