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Interest Fundamental In Education

Some educators have feared that in finding our occupations interesting,

we shall lose all power of effort and self-direction; that the will, not

being called sufficiently into requisition, must suffer from non-use;

that we shall come to do the interesting and agreeable things well

enough, but fail before the disagreeable.

INTEREST NOT ANTAGONISTIC TO EFFORT.--The best development of the will

does not come
through our being forced to do acts in which there is

absolutely no interest. Work done under compulsion never secures the

full self in its performance. It is done mechanically and usually under

such a spirit of rebellion on the part of the doer, that the advantage

of such training may well be doubted. Nor are we safe in assuming that

tasks done without interest as the motive are always performed under the

direction of the will. It is far more likely that they are done under

some external compulsion, and that the will has, after all, but very

little to do with it. A boy may get an uninteresting lesson at school

without much pressure from his will, providing he is sufficiently afraid

of the master. In order that the will may receive training through

compelling the performance of certain acts, it must have a reasonably

free field, with external pressure removed. The compelling force must

come from within, and not from without.

On the other hand, there is not the least danger that we shall ever find

a place in life where all the disagreeable is removed, and all phases of

our work made smooth and interesting. The necessity will always be

rising to call upon effort to take up the fight and hold us to duty

where interest has failed. And it is just here that there must be no

failure, else we shall be mere creatures of circumstance, drifting with

every eddy in the tide of our life, and never able to breast the

current. Interest is not to supplant the necessity for stern and

strenuous endeavor but rather to call forth the largest measure of

endeavor of which the self is capable. It is to put at work a larger

amount of power than can be secured in any other way; in place of

supplanting the will, it is to give it its point of departure and render

its service all the more effective.

INTEREST AND CHARACTER.--Finally, we are not to forget that bad

interests have the same propulsive power as good ones, and will lead to

acts just as surely. And these acts will just as readily be formed into

habits. It is worth noticing that back of the act lies an interest; in

the act lies the seed of a habit; ahead of the act lies behavior, which

grows into conduct, this into character, and character into destiny. Bad

interests should be shunned and discouraged. But even that is not

enough. Good interests must be installed in the place of the bad ones

from which we wish to escape, for it is through substitution rather

than suppression that we are able to break from the bad and adhere to

the good.

Our interests are an evolution. Out of the simple interests of the child

grow the more complex interests of the man. Lacking the opportunity to

develop the interests of childhood, the man will come somewhat short of

the full interests of manhood. The great thing, then, in educating a

child is to discover the fundamental interests which come to him from

the race and, using these as a starting point, direct them into

constantly broadening and more serviceable ones. Out of the early

interest in play is to come the later interest in work; out of the early

interest in collecting treasure boxes full of worthless trinkets and old

scraps comes the later interest in earning and retaining ownership of

property; out of the interest in chums and playmates come the larger

social interests; out of interest in nature comes the interest of the

naturalist. And so one by one we may examine the interests which bear

the largest fruit in our adult life, and we find that they all have

their roots in some early interest of childhood, which was encouraged

and given a chance to grow.