Despite the modesty of its title, the publication of this book in 1899 was a significant event. It marked the first application of the relatively new discipline of psychology, and specifically of James’s theses in The Principles of Psychology, to educational theory and classroom practice. The book went through twelve printings in as many years and has never been out of print. Among its innovative features were James’s maxims “No reception without reaction” and “No impression without expression”; a new emphasis on the biology of behavior and on the role of instincts; and discussions of the relevance to elementary school education of what is known about will, attention, memory, apperception, and the association of ideas.
Appended to the fifteen talks to schoolteachers were three talks to college students, as pertinent today as when they were written: “The Gospel of Relaxation,” “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” and “What Makes a Life Significant?”