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Nothing but Pleasantness

From J.S. Mill's Autobiography: "And I do not believe that boys can be induced to apply themselves with rigour, and what is so much more difficult, perseverance to dry and irksome studies, by the sole force of persuasion and soft words.  Much must be done, and much must be learnt, by children, for which rigid discipline, and known liability to punishment, are indispensable as means.  It is, no doubt, a very laudable effort, in modern teaching, to render as much as possible of what the young are required to learn, easy and interesting to them.  But when this principle is pushed to the length of not requiring them to learn anything but what has been made easy and interesting, one of the chief objects of education is sacrificed. I rejoice in the decline of the old brutal and tyrannical system of teaching, which, however, did succeed in enforcing habits of application; but the new, as it seems to me, is training up a race of men who will be incapable of doing anything which is disagreeable to them.  I do not, then, believe that fear, as an element in education, can be dispensed with; but I am sure that it ought not to be the main element; and when it predominates so much as to preclude love and confidence on the part of the child to those who should be the unreservedly trusted advisers of after years, and perhaps to seal up the fountains of frank and spontaneous communicativeness in the child’s nature, it is an evil for such a large abatement must be made from the benefits, moral and intellectual, which may flow from any other part of the education."

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