Although advice is an old and widely used method of guidance, some guidance authorities condemn it in any form, maintaining that it is harmful. They even go so far as to say that the only time it is safe to give advice to others is when you know they will not use it. This statement grossly exaggerates the dangers of advice and is plainly untrue. Industrial firms spend millions every year on advice, and it pays. Older men who have had years of experience either in the industry that employs them or in similar industries are used as consultants or advisers. The value of their services is evident in the large salaries given to such men. Throughout history sages have been singled out for great honour and reverence.
All aspects of the past—social, industrial, economic, scientific, artistic, and religious—have much to teach us. Such sources of understanding are too little used in our present programmes of guidance. To be of any use the lessons of history must be read and interpreted not only in terms of the past but also in terms of the present.
Teachers of English, history, science, art, and music can open up these sources of help and interpret them as well. The lessons of the past that are of the greatest value are those that state fundamental values of life and general principles of conduct. These lessons will help in many different situations because they usually do not indicate exactly what one should do but leave it to the individual to determine what definite action will be best. This is in accord with the principle that the purpose of guidance is the development in the individual of the ability to solve problems without the help of others. Conditions may have changed so much that the present problem is quite unlike the old one, and what was once a desirable solution may no longer be satisfactory.
Advice is usually received best and carries more weight when the one who seeks it comes voluntarily to the counsellor because he feels the need for help. Gratuitous advice is usually of little value because most people regard such proffered help as an intrusion on what they consider to be their own affair. Such advice is also often given without knowledge or consideration of the needs of the person advised. In summary, one’s own experience as well as that of others may be very valuable in guidance, but it may not be a safe guide in itself. To be of real value, experience must be interpreted in relation to the particular problem that is at hand. Is this problem the same as the one previously faced? Is the solution that was made in the past as satisfactory now as it was then? There may be differences, even though slight ones, in the present situation that may be very significant, thus making the solution that was once satisfactory quite unsatisfactory now.
For example, action taken fifty years ago based on a certain religious belief may have been useful then, but it may be quite useless or even undesirable now. Even now two persons may have the same beliefs regarding the worth of the individual and his relation to God and yet be on opposite sides of such a social problem as segregation. One may honestly believe that the best interests of the Negro can be secured by segregation; the other may believe just as sincerely that they can be attained only by desegregation. The previous family and social experience and the background of each person have a powerful influence on the belief which is held. Guidance must help young people to develop techniques of utilising their own past experience and that of others for the solution of the problems facing them in making their adjustments in life.