Scientific Methods As Applied To Child Education In "the Children's Houses"

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INTRODUCTION                      xxxiii
cinating as well as profitable. A good deal of modern educational theory has been based on the belief that chil­dren are interested only in what has social value, social content, or "real use"; yet a day with any normal child will give ample evidence of the delight that children take in purely formal exercises. The sheer fascination of tuck­ing cards under the edge of a rug will keep a baby happy until any ordinary supply of cards is exhausted; and the wholly sensory appeal of throwing stones into the water gives satisfaction enough to absorb for a long time the attention of older children—to say nothing of grown-ups. The Montessori apparatus satisfies sense hunger when it is keen for new material, and it has besides a puzzle-interest which children eagerly respond to. Dr. Montessori sub­ordinates the value of the concrete mental content her material supplies to its value in rendering the senses more acute; yet it is by no means certain that this content— purely formal as it is—does not also give the material much of its importance. Indeed, the refinement of sensory discrimination may not in itself be particularly valuable. What Professor G. M. Whipple says on this point in his Manual of Mental and Physical Tests (p. 130) has much weight:
The use of sensory tests in correlation work is particularly interesting. In general, some writers are convinced that keen discrimination is a prerequisite to keen intelligence, while others are equally convinced that intelligence is essentially conditioned by "higher" processes, and only remotely by sensory capacity— barring, of course, such diminution of capacity as to interfere seriously with the experiencing of sensations, as in partial deaf­ness or partial loss of vision. While it is scarcely the place here to discuss the evolutionary significance of discriminative sensitivity, it may be pointed out that the normal capacity is many times in excess of the actual demands of life, and that it is consequently diffi­cult to understand why nature has been so prolific and generous; to
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