One other way in which Locke suggests making education as pleasant for children as possible is to use reason with them. As soon as a child can speak he can reason, and children, like all rational creatures, like to have their reason respected. When you forbid or permit anything, let them know why you are doing so in as clear and simple a way as possible.


It is appealing to think that every child is capable of loving arithmetic just as much he loves splashing in mud puddles. If this were true, the job of teachers would be simple. But though Locke asserts it with full confidence, it remains a slightly dubious claim. Locke is right in claiming that children love liberty. Anyone who has observed children knows that they love to have free reign over their lives. Locke is also right to claim that this holds just as true for adults. People tend to prefer almost any activity when they do it by choice rather than under duress: pick up a Sherlock Holmes mystery on your own, and you cannot put it down; get it assigned to you in English class and it suddenly becomes a burdensome chore. Still it is one thing to claim that children hate to be forced to do things, and a completely other thing to claim that this is the sole determinant of their likes and dislikes.

The fact that Locke thinks that all children can come to love learning as much as they love playing, might be a symptom of a recurring problem in the following sections. He is unable to fully appreciate the diversity of human minds. Probably there are many children who could be made to thoroughly enjoy learning all subjects through Locke's method. In fact, there are undoubtedly many children who enjoy learning as much as playing even in the absence of Locke's method. What is equally probable, though, is that there are many children who would continue to prefer splashing in mud puddles, no matter how free and easy you tried to make arithmetic seem. It is not unlikely that some people simply do not like math, and can never by made to like math. The same goes for poetry, philosophy, literature, etc. It is possible, in other words, that people are born with dispositions that strongly incline them to certain likes and dislikes and that no matter how appealing you try to make something seem, they still will not grow to like it. What would be the source of these inherent inclinations to like or dislike a pursuit? Maybe it would have to do with inherent talents; after all, it is a lot easier to enjoy mathematics or poetry if you actually understand mathematics or poetry. It is even easier to enjoy them if you have the ability to creatively engage in them yourself.

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