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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
r /> 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.