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When the wise man sees in childhood not kingship alone, but divinity, he brings a gift of frankincense. It was such a gift that Froebel brought. True, he perceived two selves in the child—“one, peculiar, arbitrary, capricious, different from all others, hostile to them, and founded on short-sighted egotism. But the other self he perceived to be reason, common to all humanity, unselfish and universal, feeding on truth and beauty and holiness." In the kindergarten he attempted to unfold the rational self and chain down the irrational. He tried to cultivate selfhood and repress selfishness.
The myrrh brought of old by the wise men was a gift, not to the king nor to the god, but to the man of sorrows. Many wise men have come in our own day with this gift for childhood, the precious gift of sympathy that comes from an understanding of a child's little human needs and human trials, trials of slight importance to the man, but so tragic to the child—such are Robert Louis Stevenson, Eugene Field, and a hundred others.
Now, when Miss Curtis invited me to speak to you this afternoon she gave me a topic, “ The Christmas vision,” nothing more. Then she went away to get this program printed with the star on it, and left me with my vision.
I saw the star guiding us teachers—you and me—to the cradle where childhood lies, and in our hands we carried gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Our gold was offered to the king; and it was what the wisest of kings chose above any other form of riches—not knowledge, that comes easily and goes easily, but wisdom which we are told " is more precious than rubies, and all the things we can desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” Now, in my vision we had learned how to make children wise. We had been brave enough to discard all that programs or courses of study prescribe that is merely traditional or temporary, and we had held fast to that which is eternal.
The frankincense we offered was our reverence for the child's personality, our recognition of the divine in him. Hay
ing reverence, it was not possible for us to make to ourselves a graven image of what, in our opinion, a child should be, and then insist upon the child's growing like the image. In my vision we had so thoroly studied the nature of childhood as to learn what it needs for its development. In attempting to chain down the child's lower self we had ceased to forget that there is a higher self that must be allowed to develop.
The myrrh that we offered was the power to enter into a child's joys and sorrows—to become childlike ourselves. We were possest of the power to become as little children, a power that is sometimes given to the ignorant and humble and denied to the learned and proud.
This, then, is the vision of you and me being led to the feet of childhood, bearing in our hands gifts of wisdom, reverence, and sympathy. But the best has not been told. You remember the young man who was afraid because the enemy compassing the city seemed so many and the supporters of the righteous man so few, and you remember that, when the prophet prayed that the young man's eyes might be opened, they were opened and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about the prophet. In my vision our eyes were opened, and we could see how many more were with us than against us. We could see thousands of teachers coming from all parts of the world bringing wisdom, reverence, and sympathy as gifts to childhood; and we could see wise men and women not called teachers at all, but statesmen, churchmen, physicians, poets, novelists, painters, all following the star we followed, and bearing in their hands gifts similar to ours.
And so we were full of hope, courage, joy, not only because we were bearers of such precious gifts, but also because we were part of the glorious host of gift-bearers. This, to my mind, is for kindergartners, for all teachers, the Christmas message, or, to use the words of Miss Curtis, “ The Christmas vision."
EMMA L. JOHNSTON BROOKLYN TRAINING SCHOOL FOR TEACHERS
New York, N. Y.
EDUCATION BY PLAY
THE INSISTENT DEMAND FOR NATURAL EDUCATION
Public education is slowly releasing itself from pure scholasticism. Born and reared in a clerical atmosphere, it maintained for its ideas the values of serious learning, and worked steadily and successfully toward those ends. The result has been that the general culture of the world has increased, more and better opportunities have been given to the many to select themselves for the learned professions, and large profits have been returned to the general mass from advanced science and administration.
The speed and certainty of the movements of society in trade and the handling of merchandise have become assured by the general knowledge of the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic. While all this is true, and much more can be claimed, the education of today no more results in the training for the establishment of the proper basis for human relationship than it did in its beginning.
Since the striking out from our plan of instruction in behavior which was based upon religion, there have been sporadic, and but measurably successful, attempts to produce courses in ethics which would take its place. Whatever the final result of this form of instruction will be, it is safe to predict that rules of the proper method of ordering life will never be learned from books or by precepts as definitely, and as certainly, as they will by the method that nature has provided for us, by“ play.”
Man's success in life depends upon his assuming proper relations to his fellow-man, and the success of our scheme of civilization depends upon the proper maintenance of these human relations.
Where failure has been the lot of many, it is invariably due (physical defects aside) to inability to follow out one or more of the great principles of human relationship, which are the rules of the game and are taught in the play of childhood and adolescence with dramatic certitude.
Despite physical and mental deformity, dangerous pavements, dirty stairways, and crowded houses, every child not already moribund will endeavor to play. The instinct is vital and inseparable from life. As such it demands the respect and attention of the biologist, for instincts so persistent mean fundamental evolutionary principles which are indissolubly connected with racial continuity and progress.
Play is the natural preparation for life and social adjustment. The sand pile and mud pie, the chase and hiding, are the first practise in getting acquainted with the making of things and the ways of competitors. The formation of a
side” or a team is the first and most vital recognition of cooperation and partnership. The differentiation of what is fair from what is not fair is the first spontaneous recognition of law and order.
There is a clearly defined course of study and an accurate syllabus of play, written by the “school superintendent of nature,” in the developing human being, that, given the opportunity, will be followed by every child thru its course of development more certainly than if it were laid down by fallible human hand.
Its content will be at first simple, attuned to the simple nature of the child; gradually it will unfold to greater complexity as different abilities are added and instincts ripen. Its items will be practised over and over again, and its lessons learned with tears, shouts, and laughter, till they become part of the child forever.
It teaches the fruits of endeavor at their real worth, but not as the books tell about it in terms of unreal illustrations or abstractions. It gives real values to tenacity, courage, fairness, courtesy, cheerfulness, cleverness, and brute force long before the names of these qualities are learned and its impressions become character before the words
can be spelled.
In short, here is a whole plan of education, the importance of which is immeasurable. This we have but dimly recognized, tho we have grudgingly given it a place in our finite endeavor to do duty to our children.
Our enlightenment has gone to the extent of providing some playgrounds, and leaving them unattended, instituting recesses in the school day, and leaving them unorganized, and worse, giving a little of the physical training time for play, time stolen from other valuable endeavor; and so on. The whole list would make a pitiful array of concession to the human nature of the child; an unorganized and occasional method of providing the minimum.
From this we are threatened with and have now a relatively, playless, and therefore, godless, generation growing up without having virtually learned in any real way justice, courage, and the value of decently and fairly“ fighting hard and square,” in the game of life.
The surest way that municipal corruption will perpetuate itself is to withhold the proper remedy.
We need and must have a thoro and complete education by play, conducted by the educational authorities in connection with, but not supplanting its present work. It can not be conducted by any other authority any more than proper medical supervision of instruction can be made by unsympathetic boards of health.
In the grades there must be play thruout the school year and in the summer. This can be done in classroom and playground during and after school. As it is often the sad case that spontaneous play reaction is weak, instruction is essential at first; later it will wane into a delightful sympathetic supervision. To this end, the present mechanism of the school and the play and game opportunities must be utilized to their fullest extent. It is not enough to provide city playgrounds with an attendant in charge, there should be teachers of physical training trained in play, games, and athletics. The cities' athletic fields must maintain teachers in athletics and