Henry Davidson Sheldon (review date 1904)

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SOURCE: A review of Educational Psychology, in The Dial, Vol. XXXVI, No. 428, April 16, 1904, pp. 263-65.

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[In the following excerpt, Sheldon praises Educational Psychology but points out that progress in the field will be slow despite Thorndike's work.]

Students of genetic psychology or child study have long been waiting for some well-organized general survey which should present in readable form the results of the many studies in this field. Prof. E. A. Kirkpatrick, in his Fundamentals of Child Study, has attempted to meet this demand and at the same time write a text-book for class use in normal schools and colleges. The larger half of his book is devoted to a discussion of the different human instincts from infancy to manhood; the author by this method avoids the necessity of marking off and characterizing the periods of growth. Aside from instincts, the subjects dealt with are physical growth and development, native motor activities and general order of development, development of intellect, heredity, individuality, abnormalities, and child study applied in schools. Appended to each chapter is a list of questions bearing on the text but not covered by it, designed to stimulate independent thought among the students. Each chapter also contains a bibliography, well adapted for class use, of the materials used. The general bibliography at the beginning of the book is by no means as judiciously selected, works of great value by such men as Preyer, Baldwin, Sully, and Compayré being mentioned by the side of Wiggin's Children's Rights and Du Bois's Beckoning of Little Hands. This, however, is a matter of small importance. Considering the difficulties of the subject, Professor Kirkpatrick's book must be pronounced a success of the first order. The author's thorough knowledge of psychology has protected him from crude generalizations; his sense of proportion is good; the material is well digested, and the practical suggestions that he ventures upon from time to time are useful. The book is well adapted to the serious lay reader, and at the same time is valuable to the student.

Prof. Irving King's The Psychology of Child Development covers the same ground as the work just spoken of, though from an entirely different standpoint; the aim in this case being not so much the organization of facts as the interpretation of the more fundamental phenomena. Professor King has a thesis to defend, which in brief is this: A great mistake has been made by Preyer and others in studying the mental life of children; this mistake consists in employing the mental processes or faculties of the adult as instruments in measuring and describing the child's intelligence. The true method is functional, it regards the child's experience as a unity and describes it as such instead of trying to discover the rudimentary beginnings of adult mental processes to single acts. In his application of this view to infancy and early childhood, Professor King has been successful in making the child's activity seem more intelligible than in the writings of any previous thinker. His thesis leads him to magnify the difference between the child and the adult mind, and to somewhat exaggerate the difficulties in the way of understanding children's ideas after the first three or four years. As a running commentary on the methods generally in use, this book will perform good service, its function being distinctly critical. No recent educational book gives more evidence of painstaking thought, of the careful consideration of a subject from a single point of view. It is an important contribution to the literature of the subject. There is a fairly representative but by no means complete bibliography in the appendix.

The third volume of the present group, that by Dr. E. L. Thorndike of Columbia on Educational Psychology, also discusses method in child study. It is a plea for...

(The entire section contains 57253 words.)

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