Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On young children and ancient history (quote from Parents' Review)

"If the education of the citizen is to be our aim at all, it must be our aim from the beginning, and if we are going to do our deliberate work through lessons, it must begin with the lessons. To insure the acceptance of the ideas we offer, we must take care that they are served attractively, and not only to be found, if ever found, after a long and painful search. For this reason it might be better not to begin by taking modern history with the young child. We are a little too close to it. Looking at a picture from a near point of view, we see so clearly all the details that we find it difficult to see the broad lines and the meaning of the whole. If we go further off, however, the details cease to distract our attention, and we see clearly the whole plan. So it is with history. The nearer the history comes to our own time, the fuller it becomes of political and constitutional details, and the more we are involved in questions of statecraft. If, however, we go back to the early history, we find it moves on broader, simpler lines, and the statesmanship, so far as it exists at all, only shows how a resourceful mind attempts to cope with circumstances.

"The early histories also are practically biographies, written about great men by men of their own time. With the child, a biography is of greater use than a number of detached history stories, because in the latter it is difficult to make the characters real living men and women, whereas if he drops leisurely into some biography, he begins to think the thoughts and take the point of view of the man whose life he is studying, and he becomes accustomed to the dress and habits of his time. In this way, he is living not only in the life of one man, but in his period."

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