The more we know about diverse children, the more complex becomes the problem of readiness. The author reviews relevant research and proposes a number of suggestive new guidelines.
Adolescence is both a biological process and a social-cultural transition.
The juvenile organism undergoes a process of growth and maturation
as it moves toward adult size and functional capacity, and,
more or less concurrently, the individual must pass through a transition
from the status and conduct of a child to the responsibilities of
the adult. The suitable adjustment of these processes, each to the
other, and the appropriate direction and timing of the demands made
by adults upon the developing adolescent are important factors in
the ease and adequacy of growing up in our culture.
The physical changes which occur during this early period of life
include both growth and development: growth, in the sense of an ihcrease
in mass, volume, and external dimensions, and development, in
the sense of becoming progressively more complex. These two processes,
growth and development, do not proceed at the same absolute rate or
at the same relative rate throughout this early period of life. There are
intervals during which the body is increasing in size more rapiclly than
it is growing in complexity, and there are other times at which this relationship
is reversed. Some of the developmental changes which occur
during adolescence are, perhaps, best appreciated when viewed in the
light of some events which have preceded them.
There are several reasons for studying body
build--some of them at least as old as Heraclitus, others of recent
development. An early interest was in relating specific types of build
to tendencies toward certain physical diseases. More or less associated
with this interest was the study of body types in their observed
(or assessed) relationship to variations in temperament and to pathological
manifestations in mental disease. More recently psychologists
have studied the possible relationships between physique and various
aspects of personality among normal individuals. Still another recent
approach to the study of body build is in the interest of gaining more
adequate estimates of nutritional status. It has become evident that,
as a measure of nutrition, weight in relation to height does not take
into account the wide differences which exist in skeletal build and in
the proportions of the body and its extremities.
Just as pediatricians
have discovered that the young child is not simply a miniature adult,
so students of human development have come to the realization that
the adolescent is neither child nor adult in his physiological reactions.
In the adolescent many new physiological adjustments are being made
which were unnecessary in the young child and which become stabilized
in the adult. Thus, adolescence may be regarded as a period of
In this chapter, therefore, we shall attempt to analyze some of the
somatic conditions which may be involved in problems which adolescents
face. Sometimes these are anatomical and physiological changes
peculiar to the second decade of life; sometimes they are bodily conditions
which have a changed significance because of the adolescent's
Tile term physical abilities is commonly used to designate achievement
levels in various more or less specific aspects of gross motor
performance. The more specific aspects may be examined through
measurements of the speed of bodily movement, the strength of muscle
groups, or the co-ordinative skill displayed in, for example, catching
or throwing a ball.
In the preceding chapter a contrast was presented between physical
abilities and fine motor abilities. Although both are expressed within
systems of co-ordination which involve the body as a whole, we think
of the finer motor skills as being revealed essentially through deftness
and accuracy in limited movements.
Two decades ago the study of mental development possessed an
intriguing novelty which has long since passed to psyeho!ogieal problems
of more recent origin. The literature on this topic has, however,
continued to grow, and has now become so extensive and at many
points so difficult to interpret that no merely casual interest can be
expected to master it. The techniques of investigation have also undergone
a growth process, as new standards and requirements have
emerged. The noteworthy amount of attention which this problem still
receives is evidence of its importance and of its bearing upon many
aspects of psychological and educational research.
Of considerable social and educational importance is the problem
of the relationship of growth to intelligence level. The preceding chapter has furnished examples of individual mental growth within various
zones of the distribution curve. For our present purpose,
however, we wish to know whether, in general, a different course
of growth is characteristic for children of higher and of lower intelligence.
The adolescent today must in some way adjust to a culture that is
characterized by instability, confusion, and conflict. Turn where he
may or do what he will, he cannot escape the forces that are creating
a novel, baffling, and, far too often, a tragic world. These forces stem,
in the main, from science and invention translated into technology.
Caught in the grip of a great technological revolution, our society is
undergoing changes no less significant than those produced by the shift
from a feudal to a capitalistic economy or by the industrial revolution
in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Socialization is the life-long process through which the human
organism learns a culture, or possibly several cultures. One of the subtypes
of socialization is acculturation, which is the learning of a culture
different from that of one's birth group. Socialization is not simply
the process of learning the specific skills of tool-using, language, and
social organization, but implies as well the learning of these cultural
behaviors as they are defined by a particular society. During this
process of learning cultural behavior, which extends from infancy to
death, the human organism likewise must learn to adjust emotionally
to the impact of these social controls as presented to him by his parents,
older siblings, teachers, employers, and other cultural surrogates.
We have a tendency to disregard or to minimize the educational
significance of the child's experiences in his peer group. During the
preschool period children begin to seek the company of their own kind
and as the years go by more and more of their spare time, and even
time that is presumed to be dedicated to adult-planned activities, is
given over to playing with, visiting with, being with, fooling around
with their age-mates.
As pointed out in other chapters of this yearbook, the boy and girl
during the second decade of life face certain life tasks as unescapable
aspects of their biological maturation and of their induction into adult
living. In this process they are exposed to the influence of many cultural
agencies. The principal medium through which culture operates
is, in earlier childhood, the family.
One of the significant aspects of the adolescent period is the emergence
and development of vocational interests. It is characteristic of
children that they give little thought to the serious problem of earning a
living and, in fact, have little orientation to the world of work. It is
equally characteristic of adults that they of necessity know something
about at least one serious occupation. The transition is accompanied
by complex changes in social personality, in group status, and in feelings
Before discussing the relationship of the subject matter of the school curriculum to developmental level, it is necessary that we know something of the course of development in the child. In recent years many centers for child study and many individuals have been so active in collecting data that much more information is available now than a decade or two ago. It is the purpose of this section of the Yearbook to present in broad outline the growth and development of the child from birth to adult life. This general material will serve as a back- ground for the more specific discussions that follow.
This chapter is the first of three that deal with education in relation to the care of the body and the promotion of physical habits and skills. This treatment of the general subject of physical education is followed by Chapter III on health education and by Chapter IV on the establishment of routine habits in connection with eating, sleeping, elimination, and dressing in early childhood. These last named activities are treated separately by reason of the prominent place each occupies in the child's early training.
Experimental data regarding children's ability to acquire health information, to form health habits, and to build favorable attitudes toward health at various levels of maturity are meager. Most of the available evidence is at least once removed from direct experimental results. Prevailing practices suggest, but they do not give authenticity to, a wide range of placement of health subject matter.
The primitive drive to obtain nourishment is perhaps the strongest and most dependable of all drives in living beings, and for this reason, if for no other, the establishment of wholesome feeding activities should be the most 'natural' and the easiest feature of the training of children. Actually, however, feeding activities are fraught, in modern life, with many ' problems,' and have been overlaid by rules, formulas, and cults more numerous and complicated than the taboos of primitive people. In no other area of the child's education would it be more helpful if facts were available for outlining a scheme by which the child's habits, and even his diet, could be based to a maximal degree upon nature and to a minimal degree upon arbitrary rules and special training.
When should instruction in the practical arts be introduced? Do developmental data indicate any optimal sequence of units? In this chapter, we shall consider these questions, first, in relation to the industrial arts and, second, in relation to home economics.
The development of musical appreciation and performance follows, in broad outline, the trends that can be observed in other aspects of development. General awareness and responsiveness precede finer appreciation and discrimination. Gross muscular response precedes the capacity for finer coordinations.
The discussion that follows deals with the radio and motion pictures both from the classroom and from the out-of-school angles. In most cases, children devote considerably more time to radio programs at home, and to motion pictures exhibited in commercial theaters, than to programs or films introduced into the classroom.
The child's artistic development from the nursery school through the senior-high-school level may roughly be divided into three periods, each including about four years (24). The first includes the years from nursery school through Grade III; the second, Grades IV through VIII; and the third, Grades IX through XII. Although available evidence supports this division for practical purposes, it admittedly is rough and tentative, based more upon cross-sectional studies of different children at different age levels than upon longitudinal studies of sequences in the development of the same group of representative children year after year. It should be kept in mind that the child who is artistically competent may not, and usually will not, conform to the developmental pace of the typical child.
In harmony with the major assumptions underlying this Yearbook, curricula in reading should be based on facts concerning the growth and development of children and concerning their abilities, interests, and needs at each level of advancement. Support for this view is found in the results of research that reveal significant correspondence between a child's level of development and the success accompanying the use of certain types of subject matter and teaching procedures. Other facts, such as the time when various types of experience will be individually most satisfying and socially most fruitful, should also be considered.
The amount of research on the development of spoken language is so great that it is impossible within a brief space to give an adequate or detailed summary of it. There are at least twenty-five major summaries or bibliographies, each of which integrates the results of a large number of specific studies. The most recent and complete of these is that by McCarthy in the Murchison Handbook (27). Although it does not pretend to cover all studies, it lists 236 in its bibliography. The following summary, then, is exceedingly compact and can make reference to only a few studies.
The basis of an instructional program in language and composition should be a well-established body of information about the uses of oral and written speech at various stages of development. At the present time there is no general agreement as to what should be taught at the different grade levels, because there is a lack of dependable objective data about the ways in which children at each stage use composition. There is also no agreement about the items they should learn, the grade placement of these items, and the standards of composition children should be expected to achieve at the various levels.
In considering the problem of instruction in spelling in relation to child development, it is important to realize that growth in vocabulary is closely related to the acquisition of experiences. A new experience for the child usually supplies him with new words by means of which he can talk, read, write, and think with some degree of understanding. This means that the child's development in writing vocabulary is greatly influenced by the number, variety, and quality of his experiences. Consequently, there is good reason to believe that instruction in spelling thrives best in the setting of a rich curriculum that includes, among many things, a sound program in written composition as such and ample opportunity for the use of sensible types of writing activities in connection with all school work.
All the studies, both of handwriting itself and of motor skill in general, show beyond question that there are marked changes as the child grows older. It is not possible to distinguish between the change due to maturation and that due to practice in general activity or in the specific act of handwriting; but whatever the source of the change, it must be given due weight in organizing instruction in writing.
What is the best time to begin the study of a foreign language? Can younger children learn it more readily, as readily, or less readily than older children? As Bagster-Collins (2) shows, historically, foreign languages have been introduced at one time or another in all grades from the elementary school to the college. Which of these levels is the best? To answer such questions as these, it is necessary to consider several basic problems that are discussed here under the following categories: 2 (a) factors affecting student achievement in foreign language study (under II, following); (b) five objectives proposed by the Modern Language. Study (under III); (c) experimental evidence on the optimal time for beginning study of a foreign language (under IV and V) ; a and (d) research needed to give more conclusive evidence as to the time to initiate foreign language study (under VI). A brief summary (under VII) concludes the chapter.
In the modern curriculum, arithmetic has much broader functions than were commonly recognized in the traditional school. Present thinking emphasizes four major functions of arithmetic: (a) the computational function, which deals with the development of essential computational skills; (b) the informational function, which deals with the development of an understanding of the history, evolution, and present status of institutions, such as banks, insurance, and taxation, that have been created by society to deal with social uses of number; (c) the sociological function, which deals with the development of an awareness of the problems faced by these institutions and of the means, current and proposed, for solving those problems; and (d) the psychological function, which deals with the development of the power to do quantitative thinking and of an appreciation of the value and significance of quantitative data and methods in dealing with the affairs of life