reviewed by Millie Almy - 1957
The publication of this book may indicate that at least one educational pendulum is about to reverse its direction. Whatever effort there has been in teacher education to consolidate educational, child, and adolescent psychology into courses in "human growth and development," its focus has been on helping teachers to see the learner as a "whole child," or a "total person." Russell's book also underlines the idea that a child's thinking processes cannot be understood apart from his emotioanl, social, or even physical development. But it clearly recognizes that a teacher who lacks specific knowledge about the nature of children's thinking processes is ill equipped to teach them "how to think." By limiting itself to this one aspect of development this text delves much more deeply into the nature of thinking than does the general child development or educational psychology book. As our knowledge in all areas of psychology grows and as the demands for more effective teaching increase, we may well see more textbooks, and indeed more courses, dealing with such specific phases of development and learning. Russell has demonstrated that this need not necessarily entail diminished recognition of the relatedness of mind and body, thought and emotion.
The importance Russell attaches to the role of emotion in thinking is apparent in the organization of the book, which includes sections on the materials and the processes of thinking. The section on the materials of thinking treats not only percepts, images, and memories, but emotions and attitudes as well. The section on processes includes associative thinking and fantasy, concept formation, problem solving, critical and creative thinking. In addition, a section of two chapters deals with improvement of thinking.
This last section highlights the practical orientation of the book. Children's Thinking would be useful if it did no more than provide such a comprehensive review of the literature. But in addition it draws implications for classroom situations and uses school illustrations sufficiently often to make most of the material seem quite relevant to the teacher.
Beyond such practical purposes Russell suggests that the book also attempts to provide a possible developmental structure for the psychology of thinking. Because he is so strongly committed to the idea that thinking involves emotional and personality factors we anticipate that Russell will provide some statement of the dynamics involved in such a structure. There is promise of this, for example, in the statement,
If the child, adolescent or adult is to have a full and rich mental life, if he is to continue to grow in conceptual, problem solving, and creative thinking ability, he needs to retain certain capacities for being fearful, or angry or inquisitivenot to mention certain capacities for joy and affection. . . . Like percepts and concepts, emotions become structural modes of response organized through experience. As such they pervade the child's thinkinghis play, his fears and dreams, his interpersonal relationships, his ethical views, his humor and esthetic concepts.
Fulfillment of this promise is possibly beyond the scope of a textbook of the nature of Children's Thinking. It demands, in this reviewer's opinion, much more attention to the literature of psychoanalysis than Russell gives. He cites Susan Isaacs several times and Karen Horney once. No mention is made, however, of Sigmund Freud or, perhaps more important, of Freudian ego psychology. The work of such psychoanalysts as Bruno Bettelheim, Gerald Pearson, and Fritz Redl has such important practical implications for an understanding of children's thinking processes that it is hard to understand their omission, just as it is difficult to see why research relating to the effects of emotional deprivation or concept formation and abstract thinking has not been included. And Harry Stack Sullivan's provocative theory of interpersonal relationships seems so rich in implications for the psychology of thinking as to make the absence of his name from the bibliography puzzling.
To complain that Children's Thinking has not drawn sufficiently on psychoanalysis is not to minimize the importance of what it does accomplish. It appears destined for wide use and should stimulate both interest in and understanding of children's thinking and further research in the area.
Teachers College, Columbia