Every teacher requires a working knowledge of the fundamental nature of the human mind. Without it teaching cannot be made either an interesting or a creative occupation. When psychologically uninformed, the teacher can operate on the mind of youth only in a formal and mechanical way, applying traditional and contemporaneous methods of procedure without much ability to adapt technique to conditions for the purpose of gaining predictable results.
Certainly the teacher who would make his teaching life an interesting and effective adventure with youth will wish to possess whatever scientific insight is necessary to an artful stimulation and control of growing minds. We recognize the field of human psychology as vast. At best its mastery is a patient and difficult matter. The important thing is to make a correct beginning. It will be highly economical of energy and discouragement. The waste of wrong views and partial views can hardly be overestimated. And such waste is largely avoidable if only the first general view of the nature of mind is accurately acquired. Fundamental truths gained and held in a comprehensive way will be a continuing source of critical and constructive suggestion, a constant safeguard against error, a persisting guide to the accurate interpretation of new facts and theories of mind prolifically offered in an age deeply interested in psychological truth.
We have long sought a presentation which would give teachers and other daily workers with mind a simple general view of mental life in its fundamental working aspects. We have been fortunate enough to find the exposition required, and it is offered in this monograph. We are confident of the influence it will have upon the American public which reads books on psychology. We are especially glad to offer this statement of the theory of the developing mind in a series intended for teachers because of the particular form of argument which the author has utilized to express his views. It meets with beneficent directness most of the fundamental doubts and controversies which have enmeshed the teaching profession for a quarter of a century.
For a long time the managers of school organizations, the makers of curricula, and the supervisors of teaching processes have been divided as to which particular theory of mind they should follow in the settling of their practical educational affairs. Should they follow the general faculty psychologists, hallowed by a long tradition, and say that the subjects of study are not of primary importance, inasmuch as certain large functions of the mind, such as memory, imagination, reasoning, etc., may be trained in almost any subject because the power gained will transfer? If so, then only a few subjects need to be included within the curriculum, and the traditional courses with a well-established technique will obviate the waste of mastering new subjects and the methods of teaching them. Or should they follow the special disciplinarians, taking sanction from recent scientific evidences, and say that the mind is so highly and finely differentiated and specialized that the only way to be sure of a wholly disciplined mind is to give it training through as large a variation of special experience as it is possible for the school to give? If so, then subjects or contents are of prime importance, the curriculum must contain many subjects instead of a few, new as well as old.
Each side of the controversy has summoned respectable scientific evidence to support its particular point of view, and by interpretation minimized the significance of the opposing facts. Gradually there has been an abandonment of extreme claims on both sides, but for all the scuttling of arguments, two points of view have remained to confuse the layman and the teacher. In the case of the educationalist it has meant continuing confusion, dualism, and indecision in educational practice.
It is therefore not difficult to understand the warm appreciation which experienced and thoughtful teachers will have for a theory of mind which will settle controversial matters in a way that is obedient to the sum total of science and consistent with the faiths created by long experience, supply missing considerations which a purely intellectual interpretation of mind has ignored, and give that unity of view which will make the application of psychology to the problems of mental development, at least in fundamental matters, a consistent matter free of the controversies and confusions, the compromises and the indecisions of the last two or three decades. It is with the greatest assurance that we predict the influence of this small volume. Teachers everywhere should read and discuss it. Then the most fundamental controversy which has harassed the profession will cease to exact most of its toll of wasted argument and lop-sided action.