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Educational Use Of Expression

The educational significance of the truths illustrated in the diagram

and the discussion has been somewhat slow in taking hold in our schools.

This has been due not alone to the slowness of the educational world to

grasp a new idea, but also to the practical difficulties connected with

adapting the school exercises as well to the expression side of

education as to the impression. From the fall of Athens on down to the

ime of Froebel the schools were constituted on the theory that pupils

were to receive education; that they were to drink in knowledge,

that their minds were to be stored with facts. Children were to be

seen and not heard. Education was largely a process of gorging the

memory with information.


evident that it is far easier to provide for the passive side of

education than for the active side. All that is needed in the former

case is to have teachers and books reasonably full of information, and

pupils sufficiently docile to receive it. But in the latter case, the

equipment must be more extensive. If the child is to be allowed to carry

out his impressions into action, if he is actually to do something

himself, then he must be supplied with adequate equipment.

So far as the home life was concerned, the child of several generations

ago was at a decided advantage over the child of today on the expression

side of his education. The homes of that day were beehives of industry,

in which a dozen handicrafts were taught and practiced. The buildings,

the farm implements, and most of the furniture of the home were made

from the native timber. The material for the clothing of the family was

produced on the farm, made into cloth, and finally into garments in the

home. Nearly all the supplies for the table came likewise from the farm.

These industries demanded the combined efforts of the family, and each

child did his or her part.

But that day is past. One-half of our people live in cities and towns,

and even in the village and on the farm the handicrafts of the home have

been relegated to the factory, and everything comes into the home ready

for use. The telephone, the mail carrier, and the deliveryman do all the

errands even, and the child in the home is deprived of responsibility

and of nearly all opportunity for manual expression. This is no one's

fault, for it is just one phase of a great industrial readjustment in

society. Yet the fact remains that the home has lost an important

element in education, which the school must supply if we are not to be

the losers educationally by the change.

THE SCHOOL TO TAKE UP THE HANDICRAFTS.--And modern educational method is

insisting precisely on this point. A few years ago the boy caught

whittling in school was a fit subject for a flogging; the boy is today

given bench and tools, and is instructed in their use. Then the child

was punished for drawing pictures; now we are using drawing as one of

the best modes of expression. Then instruction in singing was intrusted

to an occasional evening class, which only the older children could

attend, and which was taught by some itinerant singing master; today we

make music one of our most valuable school exercises. Then all play time

was so much time wasted; now we recognize play as a necessary and

valuable mode of expression and development. Then dramatic

representation was confined to the occasional exhibition or evening

entertainment; now it has become a recognized part of our school work.

Then it was a crime for pupils to communicate with each other in school;

now a part of the school work is planned so that pupils work in groups,

and thus receive social training. Then our schoolrooms were destitute of

every vestige of beauty; today many of them are artistic and beautiful.

This statement of the case is rather over-optimistic if applied to our

whole school system, however. For there are still many schools in which

all forms of handicraft are unknown, and in which the only training in

artistic expression is that which comes from caricaturing the teacher.

Singing is still an unknown art to many teachers. The play instinct is

yet looked upon with suspicion and distrust in some quarters. A large

number of our schoolrooms are as barren and ugly today as ever, and

contain an atmosphere as stifling to all forms of natural expression. We

can only comfort ourselves with Holmes's maxim, that it matters not so

much where we stand as in what direction we are moving. And we certainly

are moving toward a larger development and greater efficiency in

expression on the part of those who pass through our schools.

EXPRESSION AND CHARACTER.--Finally, all that has been said in this

discussion has direct reference to what we call character--that

mysterious something which we so often hear eulogized and so seldom

analyzed. Character has two distinct phases, which may be called the

subjective phase and the social phase; or, stating it differently,

character is both what we are and what we do. The first of these has

to do with the nature of the real, innermost self; and the last, with

the modes in which this self finds expression. And it is fair to say

that those about us are concerned with what we are chiefly from its

relation to what we do.

Character is not a thing, but a process; it is the succession of our

thoughts and acts from hour to hour. It is not something which we can

hoard and protect and polish unto a more perfect day, but it is the

everyday self in the process of living. And the only way in which it can

be made or marred is through the nature of this stream of thoughts and

acts which constitute the day's life--is through being or doing well

or ill.

TWO LINES OF DEVELOPMENT.--The cultivation of character must, then,

ignore neither of these two lines. To neglect the first is to forget

that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks; that

a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit; that the act is the true

index of the soul. To omit the second is to leave the character half

formed, the will weak, and the life inefficient and barren of results.

The mind must be supplied with noble ideas and high ideals, with right

emotions and worthy ambitions. On the other hand, the proper connection

must be established between these mental states and appropriate acts.

And the acts must finally grow into habits, so that we naturally and

inevitably translate our ideas and ideals, our emotions and ambitions

into deeds. Our character must be strong not in thought and feeling

alone, but also in the power to return to the world its finished

product in the form of service.