|PERVASIVE INFLUENCE 155
tongue rests and the curve of writer's cramp takes a sharp turn upward, as if we were making scribes, reporters, and proof-readers. In some schools teachers seem to be conducting correspondence classes with their own pupils. It all makes excellent busy work, keeps the pupils quiet and orderly, and allows the school output to be quantified, and some of it gives time for more care in the choice of words. But is it a gain to substitute a letter for a visit, to try to give written precedence over spoken forms? Here again we violate the great law that the child repeats the history of the race, and that, from the larger historic standpoint, writing as a mode of utterance is only the latest fashion. (1904, 2: 462)
Recapitulation, in short, became the strongest argument for child- centered education:
Since it is the order of nature that the new organism should pass through cer- tain developmental stages, it behooves us to study nature's plan and seek rather to aid than to thwart it. For nature must be right; there is no higher criterion . . . The parallelism of phylogeny and ontogeny enforces the argument in favor of natural development . . . It furnishes a double support to the view that education should be a process of orderly and gradual unfolding, without precocity and without interference, from low to ever higher stages; that forcing is unnatural and that the mental pabulum should be suited to the stage of development reached. (Guillet, 1900, in Thorndike, 1919, pp. 104–105)
We have rejected the rationale today (and some of its implications—the dangers of precocity, for example). But much of the little that is good about modern American education follows an ideal that triumphed with the strong aid of recapitulation.
W. M. Wheeler, student of social insects and one of the most perceptive and widely educated biologists of our century, had little use for Victorian psychology. He rejoiced in Freud, Jung, Adler, Jones, and Ferenczi and expressed his pleasure in a 1917 address, "On Instincts." Of the older school, he wrote:
After perusing during the past twenty years a small library of rose-water psy- chologies of the academic type and noticing how their authors ignore or merely hint at the existence of such stupendous and fundamental biological phenomena as those of hunger, sex, and fear, I should not disagree with, let us say, an imaginary critic recently arrived from Mars, who should express the opinion that many of these works read as if they had been composed by beings that had been born and bred in a belfry, castrated in early infancy, and fed continually for fifty years through a tube with a stream of liquid nutriment of constant chemical composition, (in Evans and Evans, 1970, pp. 226–227)