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THE SMILE AS AN EDUCATIONAL AID
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We under-estimate the importance of laughter and the first smile that is gesture. The true smile must begin as a gesture before it can become a bearing. It is necessary to practice all modes of expression in order to develop the bearings. Expression is one of the most important means of unfolding and developing character. We can develop a deep and beautiful bearing of the smile on the face only by the practice of joy. We must cherish love and joy in the heart; we must be interested in others. Such an attitude is productive of smiles and laughter, and when accompanied by reserve, constant meditation and a serious study of nature, literature and our fellowmen, the smile will gradually become first an attitude, then a bearing.
Not only can we educate the smile, but the smile is a great help to education.
In the first place, if a teacher will study the smile of a little child he can frequently discern inner conditions which act as a hindrance to the unfolding of the child's nature. Whenever we note what has been called by Scott that “ contortion of the visage intended to be a smile," it may not be, as indicated, a suggestion of hypocrisy. It indicates sometimes constrictions or fear. The child may have been too greatly repressed and needs to be made to feel at home with others.
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Frequently children are like plants in a dark cellar. There is need of fellowship, encouragement, a chance to put forth endeavor. A smile of appreciation may awaken a smile of conscious realization.
Is it not one of the highest functions of education to awaken joy?
I was astounded lately to hear an official of a great art museum say, “ Our museum is not an educational institution. It does not exist to give people knowledge.”
What a narrow conception of education did this man have! He was asked, “ What does it try to give people?” “Joy,” he answered. But does it give people joy? When people go into an art museum and fail to get the point of view of a picture they begin to feel a sense of distance, and to me in many of our art museums the faces are very sad. “Before the art of Pizarro,” said Philip Gilbert Hammerton, “I feel like a stranger who needs to be introduced.” If before the interesting art of one of his contemporaries a great art critic could feel in that way and so frankly confess it, what must be the feeling of the ordinary man in one of our art museums? Does he not need an introduction? Does he not need to be awakened in some way, introduced to what he ought to receive, what he should enjoy?
If the art museum is not an educational institution, must it not remain a mere show? The word “education ” must be widened. The art museum should exist to educate people's imagination and cultivate their taste, to awaken feeling, to educate ideals, to develop power to perceive beauty and is this not one of the highest phases of education?
The art museum exists for the average man, for the whole community. It is intended to render a
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great educational service not merely to school children in their study of history, but to inspire them to realize the spirit of the historical events they have studied. Whoever comes in touch with the spirit of Greece by the mere perusal of a record of events? These are necessary, but they must be supplemented by other great works of art, those things which embody the spirit. We can never learn to know Greece so long as we remain in ignorance of the Parthenon, the Iliad and the Edipus. Just as we frequent a library to understand something of the Greek literature, we should visit a museum to feel the spirit of their great art. A man by taking a Greek poem home with him may meditate over it and come into a realization of its beauty, but it requires the same concentration and sympathy to appreciate an art work which quite as directly, if not more immediately, reveals the spirit and life of a people.
Education is not the mere acquisition of facts. A museum of natural history serves a great end, but because an art museum does not present facts in the same manner may it not be in a higher sense educational?
It gives more than facts: it awakens the imagination, the feelings and the sympathies. It leads to a deeper and truer understanding of the possibilities of human nature.
Is it not one of the highest aims of education to awaken the enjoyment of people, to teach them what to enjoy and how to enjoy? It cannot be taught by dictation; can be accomplished only by the direction of attention.
The teacher performs the simple act of introduction, but leaves the student to study deeper. The best and highest art, no less than Nature herself, requires an introduction to most men and women. It should be and can be introduced to children.
The time is coming when there will be a great transformation of the art museums, when they will be less a treasure house or mausoleum of art works for the few, but rather a place where great pictures and statues will be recognized as something to be seen by all and felt by all, such a place too where everyone will be introduced to great art in a way that will lead to a true appreciation.
True art is a temple into which everyone must enter in solitude, but a true teacher can indicate the path. In one sense art is an expression of the racial in us and to develop the race in us art is necessary.
Expression is necessary to the growth and development of every human being. Have you ever seen a child that never played? I remember one especially. She had been a mother to many little brothers and sisters. Her father was a poor workman. Her mother, according to some minds, was not what she ought to have been,-she drank whenever she had a chance. The whole woe of the family had fallen upon this little girl. How sad was her face! How serious! I never saw it light up with a smile. Like an angel of mercy she served patiently without a murmur, father and mother and every member of the family. There was no frown, no antagonistic look from her soft eyes. Only a look of submission, of endurance without one ray of hope. Before that sad face you felt as a stranger. You stood before the beautiful rosebud, withered before it ever bloomed.
Do you make enough of joy in education? I once heard a leading man say, “I attended term after term under the instruction of one who felt he must drive the information into us by force,one who never smiled. Then there came one who was full of smile. He was not so good a scholar as the other, it was said, but I learned more under him in one month than under the other in all the years I had been studying with him.”
I have thought that sometimes the children need more help, more sympathetic contact, in their games than in their studies.
It is in their games that normal feelings are awakened; there they can smile and enjoy the success of others, laugh at their own failures. The game is born of deep human instinct. Certainly we know the child is more serious at play than at work.
Certainly, the right smile, the right laugh at the right time is one of the greatest and most important achievements in education.
In a certain sense we cannot teach anything.
“No man,” said Schlegel, “can give anything to his fellow-man but himself.”
What, after all, is teaching?
As I look back over my past life and think of some of the fifty great teachers I have had, I rarely remember the particular things they taught me. The things I remember are some side issues which bore only indirectly if at all upon the subject under discussion.
It was the contact with their great souls that meant something to me,-the awakening that came to me from a touch with their personalities.
No teacher ever gave a good lesson in which he did not learn something himself. The best lesson was given when he learned most himself.
Is not teaching, after all, a contact of soul with that great truth of which each of us knows so