Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Current light reading (quote of the day)

Ole' Blogger is mighty slow tonight. I guess everyone in the U.S. and beyond is blogging their hearts out over the election.

I'm not going to worry about the results now. The gods of the ballot box will have their way. So enough of politics.

On to light reading: I've been slogging my way through William James' Principles of Psychology (1890). I'm up to page 403. About 800 pages to go.

Here's an extended quote of professional interest to me, from page 394. I love his habit of detached understatement:

"Sensitiveness to immediately exciting sensorial stimuli characterizes the attention of childhood and youth. In mature age we have generally selected those stimuli which are connected with one or more so-called permanent interests, and our attention has grown irresponsive to the rest. But childhood is characterized by great active energy, and has few organized interests by which to meet new impressions and decide whether they are worthy of notice or not, and the consequence is that extreme mobility of the attention with which we are all familiar in children, and which makes their first lessons rough affairs. Any strong sensation whatever produces accomodation of the organs which perceive it, and absolute oblivion, for the time being, of the task at hand. This reflex and passive character of attention which, as a French writer says, makes the child seem to belong less to himself than to every object which happens to catch his notice, is the first thing which the teacher must overcome. It never is overcome in some people, whose work, to the end of life, gets done in the interstices of their mind-wandering." (emphasis added)

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