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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 omnivor
us, 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

our ideal.