This book is intended to follow Education for a New World and to help teachers to envisage the child’s needs after the age of six. We claim that the average boy or girl of twelve years who has been educated till then at one of our schools knows at least as much as the finished High School product of several years’ seniority, and the achievement has been at no cost of pain or distortion to body or mind. Rather are our pupils equipped in their whole being for the adventure of life, accustomed to the free exercise of will and judgment, illuminated by imagination and enthusiasm. Only such pupils can exercise rightly the duties of citizens in a civilised commonwealth.
The first four chapters are mainly psychological, showing the changed personality with which the teacher has to deal at six years of age, and the need for a corresponding change of approach. The secret of success is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of seeds of interest already sown by attractive literary and pictorial material, but all correlated to a central idea, of greatly ennobling inspiration—the Cosmic Plan, in which all, consciously or unconsciously, serve the great Purpose of Life. It is shown how the conception of evolution has been modified of late through geological and biological discoveries, so that self-perfection now has to yield precedence to service among the primary natural urges.
The next eight chapters show how the Cosmic Plan can be presented to the child, as a thrilling tale of the earth we live in, its many changes through slow ages when water was Nature’s chief toiler for accomplishment of her purposes, how land and sea fought for supremacy, and how equilibrium of elements was achieved, that Life might appear on the stage to play its part in the great drama. Illustrated as it must be by fascinating, charts and diagrams, the creation of earth as we now know it unfolds before the child’s imagination, and always with emphasis on the function each agent has to perform in Nature’s household, whether consciously or unconsciously, failure in this alone leading to extinction. So the talc proceeds till Palaeolithic Man appears, most significantly traced by the tools he used on his environment rather than by physical remains of so slight a creature. The new element of mind is brought to creation by man, and from that time the children are helped to see the great acceleration that has taken place in evolution. They learn to reverence the earliest pioneers, who toiled for purposes unknown to them but now to be recognised. Nomadic men and settlers alike contributed to build up early communities, and by interchanges of war and peace to share and spread social amenities.
From chapter thirteen brief descriptions are given of some of the earliest civilizations, particularly with a view to their impacts on each other, showing human society as slowly organising itself towards unity, just as, in the individual human being, organs are built around separate centres of interest, to be later connected by the blood-circulatory system and the nerves, into an integrated human organism. So the child is led, by review of some of the most thrilling epochs of world-history, to see that so far humanity has been in an embryonic stage, and that it is just now emerging into true birth, able to consciously realise its true unity and function.
The last chapters go back to the psychological point of view, urging on educators the supreme importance, to the nation and to the world, of the tasks imposed on them. Not in the service of any political or social creed should the teacher work, but in the service of the complete human being, able to exercise in freedom a self-disciplined will and judgment, unperverted by prejudice and undistorted by fear.