Reason or Rod
SIR,-With reference to your report on the Conference of Catholic Teachers at Chester, Mr. W. D. Farrell is reported as having said that " soft psychology is reducing school to the level of a badly run play centre." that it is " ruining children," and in the Daily Telegraph of December 30, that he " saw nothing wrong with the dictum of spare the rod and spoil the child" and thirdly, that " the prime responsibility" (presumably for badly behaved children, or perhaps juvenile delinquency) "rests mostly on psychological ideas that have permeated official and public opinion." It is a pity that Mr. Farrell is not more precise in his statement or does the fault lie with the report of his speech? What does he mean by "soft psychology "? Psychology is the science of human behaviour, and aims at the greater understanding of the individual. In schools recently, particularly where young children are concerned, there has been an attempt among thinking teachers to increase their understanding of the children in their care, and this has led to a greater appreciation of the immense value of children's play. As a result, in many schools some part of each day has been set apart for the children to play and experiment without direction by the teacher, with a wide variety of materials. Is it to this that Mr. Farrell is alluding with his reference to the " badly run play centre "? One has only to read books by such people as Dr. Susan Isaacs and Miss Dorothy Gardener to realise the tremendous amount of research which has taken place in this field. On the Catholic side there are two new pamphlets published by the C.T.S. to which I would draw Mr. Farrell's attention. The first, Child Guidance, by Sister Marie Hilda, S.N.D., B.A., has a foreword by the Rev. J. Leycester King. SI, who says that " by far the greater part of those psychological maladies which beset mankind in adult life have their origins in infancy and childhood," and the work of the Notre Dame Clinic at Glasgow described in the pages which follow shows the value of play as a remedial measure. The value of " the rod" is always extremely doubtful, even in the case of grave and persistent misdoing. The bad behaviour symntoms may be checked, but unless the underlying cause is found and adjusted, it will be a suppression only, and will find another and perhaps graver outlet.
This point is made In the second pamphlet, Psycho Analysis. by C. L. C. Burns. M.R.C.S., D.P.N., in the section child psychology.