Reasons for Studying Psychology is a common question which is in mind of every student. Probably that is one of the reasons why you wish to study Psychology. And it certainly is a good reason for studying it. Few subjects are better calculated to develop the power of thinking than Psychology. You know that the way to develop any power of the mind is to use it, and it is quite impossible to make any headway in studying Psychology without thinking. That is the reason why it is so hard.
Develops Power of Thought.
When any one makes an assertion about your mind — and that is what human. Psychology consists of, assertions about your mind and the minds of human beings — it is often, indeed generally, impossible to realize what it means without thinking. Thus, suppose I say that a mental fact is known directly to but one person, and that one the person experiencing it In order to realize what that means, you have to look into your own mind for an example of a mental fact. You recall the oft-repeated assertion, no one knows what any one thinks but himself, and you realize that a thought is a mental fact known to but one person directly, and that one the person experiencing it. But in order to know what other facts arc mental facts, you must think long and carefully, until you have made up your mind just what facts are known to but one person directly, and that one the person experiencing them.
Even when you can understand an assertion that any one makes about your mind without looking into your own mind, it is generally necessary for you to do so before you can decide intelligently whether or not it is true. If any one says that you can not get the continuous attention of your pupils without asking questions, or without giving them some other motive for attending besides interest, that statement can be understood without special effort.
But in order to determine whether or not it is true, you must look into your mind. You must ask yourself whether any one can keep your attention for a half or three-quarters of an hour simply by being interesting. If you set about answering it in the right way, you will think until you recall some speaker who never asked you questions, or did anything except try to interest you to keep your attention, but who was interesting; then I am sure you will remember that when he was speaking your mind wandered much more than it would have done if you had known that, when he had finished, he would question you about what he was saying. You will remember that you often allowed your mind to dwell on interesting points that he raised, to the exclusion of what he said directly after.
Why You Must Study Psychology
For these two reasons — (i) because you can not under stand most of the assertions in Psychology without thinking ; and (2) because, even when you understand them, you can not tell without thinking whether or not they arc true — I know of no subject better calculated to make a pupil think, and therefore better fitted to develop the power of thinking, than Psychology.
Practical Reasons For Studying Psychology As A Subject.
But apart from this, you wish to study Psychology for quite practical reasons. As a man who intends to be a surveyor studies trigonometry, not merely because it will develop his mind, but because of the use it will be to him, so you study Psychology because you think the knowledge of it will make you a better teacher.That question, the study of Psychology will help you to answer; and the more you know about Psychology, the more clearly and fully and definitely you can answer it.
Studying Psychology Is Very Important For Meaning of Development.
Quite likely you think you can answer it now. You say you wish your pupils to have better developed minds at the end of each day than they had at the beginning. But better developed in what direction ? The North American Indians had remarkable powers of observation. They could track an enemy through a forest where you could sec no trace of a human being. Will you be content to have your pupils acquire powers similar to those possessed by the North American Indians? Is this what you wish them to become? The Chinese have remarkable memories. Many educated Chin-amen remember almost word for word the nine classics compiled and edited by Confucius. Do you want your pupils to have minds like the Chinese?
I do not, of course, mean to imply that you should not aim to cultivate the observing powers of your pupils as well as their memories. But the North American Indians developed their powers of observation at the expense of the higher powers of their minds, and the Chinese their mechanical memory in the same costly way. And yet the Chinese aim at development. It is evident, there, fore, that when one says that the object of educationis development, he has not expressed a very definite idea. The question is, What kind of development? and that question Psychology will help us answer.
Necessity of a Definite Aim.
So you see that when you say you want to help your pupils develop their minds, you have by no means proved that you know precisely what, as an intelligent teacher, you ought to aim at. And unless we know what to aim at, we can not hope to have success. Do you think an architect could build a beautiful house if he began to build it and worked at it from day to day without having in his mind, so to speak, the house he was trying to build ? Well, if a carpenter must have a picture in his mind of the kind of house he wishes to build in order to build it, how can we hope to succeed in molding and forming the minds of our pupils in an intelligent way, unless we have the clearest ideas of what we wish them to become ?
Need of a Criterion of Knowledge.
But at any rate, perhaps you think you are clear as to one thing in which you wish your pupils to change; you wish them to become less ignorant — you wish them to know more. But to know more of what ? We have not got very far when we say that we wish to help our pupils to acquire knowledge, unless we have made up our mind as to what knowledge is worth acquiring. There is a good deal of history in the text-books which is not worth learning, and a good deal out of them which is in the highest degree important, and the same is true of the other subjects we teach. How are we to make up our minds what knowledge is worth acquiring ? The study of Psychology will help us do that. It
will help us see the effect which the acquiring of this or that piece of knowledge will have on the mind, and in this way enable us to estimate its worth.
Here again it is evident that it is quite impossible to succeed in teaching unless in some way we are able to decide intelligently what we ought to get our pupils to learn. Until we are able to decide that, we can, .in the first place, aim only to get them to everything in the text-book. This is bad for two reasons: in the first place, text-books are sometimes written by men who know s» little of the subject that they can not tell what is important and what is not important; and in the second place, intelligent men put many things in text-books, not that students may acquire them, but that they may be able to refer to them if they have occasion to use them.
No one but a fool would commit to memory a railroad guide. And yet railroad guides arc very useful; but when any one has occasion for them, he goes to them. He remembers what he finds there just as long as he wants it, and then does not trouble his head with it any longer. Now, intelligent men put many such facts in the books they write — facts which they do not expect any one to learn, but to which they think persons may sometimes have occasion to refer. For these two reasons, it is very unfortunate for a teacher to have to rely entirely upon his text-books in deciding what to teach.The study of Psychology, then, will help us see what we ought to aim at. It will help us see the kind of development we ought to try to help them get. and the kind of knowledge we ought to try to impart.