In dealing with boys the teacher has four appeals to make: one to the reason, another to the instinct of fear, a third to the instinct of reverence, and a fourth to their love.
The first appeal often fails in the case of young lads, seldom in that of older boys.
Yet failure in the former case need not be the rule. If it is, the fault lies not in the boy, but either in the argument or the man who makes it.
Young boys are rarely captivated by speculative reasons. They are almost to a lad pleasure-loving and utilitarian, and arguments to be effective with them must show that a proposed course of action is at least useful, if not pleasurable.
The bonum utile and the bonum dulce should be combined wherever possible.
The appeal to fear, though at times necessary and useful, should in the main be avoided. Its educative influence is not as great as is supposed.
Oftentimes it destroys the self-confidence of the timid, and makes others dark and secretive, results wholly undesirable.
Reverence and love have none of these drawbacks. In them there is naught save power for good.
By them the boy surrenders himself completely to the teacher, whose solemn duty it is to inspire him with God-like thoughts and aspirations.
But it must be admitted that in these critical and desperately democratic days boys require a high degree of excellence in those whom they would reverence and love.
Commonplace mediocrity will scarcely attract their notice, much less fascinate them.
They demand superior mental and moral excellence in their heroes.
We deceive ourselves by judging otherwise, or by thinking that we can dazzle them by false pretence.
They estimate character by a wonderful instinct which is akin to that queer, uncanny intuition in women, which so often and so effectively replaces ratiocination.
Boys’ impressions of their teacher are generally correct. It is only when they begin to reason laboriously, an infrequent occurrence, that they go astray.
For then false witness and prejudice are apt to direct and color their judgments.
As a rule, then, the teacher must ring true to be estimated true.
And he will ring true if he is a master of his subject and allied subjects; a friend of his boys, yet their superior ; a pure wholesome companion, yet a prudent counsellor in time of need; a whole-souled unenvious man, who disdains to speak disparagingly of fellow-professors, or of pupils in the presence of pupils ; a man, in short, who gives himself to a noble cause, forgetful of rebuff and ingratitude, seeking only to perpetuate the work of Him, who set free the captive and gave sight to the blind. To such a one discipline is not a problem.