« AnteriorContinuar »
inadequate. Because of this shortage of time, teachers and textbooks are compelled to abbreviate and epitomize. Many of our textbooks in the middle and upper grades and in the high schools show this tendency to shorten and condense topics to a remarkable degree. This crowding of many studies upon the school program has produced a sketchy and superficial method of study. The whole course of study tends to become a memorized table of contents rather than an interesting and instructive development of knowledge. Stated in this form the result is simply distressing.
Such a condensed and overcrowded course of study breeds a host of evils. It leads both teachers and children into a bog where they fail to find sure footing. Crowded with this excessive variety of knowledge children lose confidence in themselves and look upon studies as a bore. They fall into a dull memorizing scheme of study that fits the requirements, while thinking and doing and all the higher activities are blighted. This fatal effort to condense knowledge actually fosters the two most serious blunders that can be made in teaching: First, it abolishes concrete illustrations and reasoning processes from instruction; second, it imposes upon children the dry schedules and formularies of a sapless knowledge.
Our conclusion is that while our course of study has been flooded with this excess of riches brought by new subjects, the outcome is a steady deterioration through condensation of textbooks into outlines, summaries, and what may be called catalogues of topics; in other words, impoverishment of studies.
The foregoing describes the condition of the elementary school curriculum in most cities; but now that the need of curriculum revision is seen, various organizations, schools of education, State and national committees, and bureaus of educational research are engaged in studying the problem. Several cities have revised their courses of study with a view to simplifying them and with certain objectives in mind. They have not resorted to the use of scissors and paste jar, but have made first-hand studies to determine what should be included in and what omitted from a particular course, and how the various studies may be so organized that they are not isolated from one another as is the case at present in many of the schools of the country, each subject being taught without any relation to any other subject.
Several city-school systems, as Detroit, Mich., and Long Beach, Calif., have formulated courses of study designed to secure progress at the normal rate for all pupils. At Long Beach, for example, it is the policy of the school to develop two modifications of the regular, or Y course of study. One of these, the X course, is a maximum or enriched course; the other, the Y course, provides only for the minimum essentials. The Z courses are for normal pupils. The superintendent of schools, in describing them, says: · If school organization makes any subnormal pupil a member of a Z class the course can not be considered as intended to meet his needs. Teachers should guard against the belief that a slow pupil is necessarily subnormal.
The effort to bridge the gap between the kindergarten and the first grade should not go unnoticed. For many years the first-grade
teachers gave slight attention to what was taught the children in kindergarten. The tendency now is for these teachers to build upon the foundation laid by the kindergarten teachers. Several kindergarten-primary courses of study have been prepared to assist in unifying the work of the kindergarten and the primary-school grades.
One of these courses is that prepared by a committee of principals, supervisors, and teachers of Los Angeles, Calif. In the course in language-art, for example, the first-grade work is built upon the work of the kindergarten; the same is true for number and nature study. In number work the kindergarten child begins with very concrete work, which is continued on through the second grade, with steps of increasing difficulty.
THE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL For many years the junior high school was a mere hazy conception. Finally it became a reality in a few school systems. To-day junior high schools are numbered by the hundreds. Many school superintendents who have organized one or two junior high schools are planning to organize more, and most of those who have not organized such schools are planning to do so at the earliest possible moment. The junior high school is beyond the experimental stage. All that remains now is to adopt it as rapidly as conditions permit and to study its various problems in administration and organization.
The junior high school movement has swept the country because school men and others have long been convinced that there are certain defects in the conventional type of organization on the 8-4 plan. The purpose of the junior high school in general is to remedy these defects. By pointing out some of the recognized shortcomings of the 8-4 plan of organization, it is clear what purposes the junior high school serves. 1 Every child must come into possession of the school arts, or the tools, but it is believed that these can be acquired in less than eight years. At present in some cities of the country the elementaryschool course is only seven years in length, and there is no evidence to show that the children completing a seven-year course do not have the school arts well enough mastéred to begin highschool work. It is now known that a child can begin junior highschool work after six years in the elementary grades. In fact, a 5–3–3 plan has a few advocates. Several cities already have the plan in operation. Surely by the end of the sixth grade a child should be able to take up secondary school work such as is offered in leading junior high schools of the country. Some years ago very few persons attended an elementary school more than 50 or 60 months, especially those residing in the rural and small-town district, yet
many of them began formal high-school work with this amount of preparation. Now it requires 72 or 80 months to complete an elementary course of eight years.
It is evident that the elementary-school work has been stretched out over two more years than are necessary. In schools organized on the conventional 8–4 plan the work of the seventh and eighth grades repeats to a very great extent that of the fifth and sixth grades. In the fifth grade the pupil studies common and decimal fractions and again in the seventh. He studies percentage and interest in the sixth grade and again in the eighth. In the fifth grade he studies geography from a small textbook and in the seventh grade the same topics from a larger book. All this repetition is unnecessary.
The seventh and eighth grade work of the conventional school looks backward, whereas it should look forward, so that the pupils may do better the things ahead of them—whether it be work in school, store, factory, or office. General introductory courses in the seventh and eighth grades are now recognized as having such a forward look. That such courses are better, whether the pupil continues in school after completing the junior high school or whether he drops out of school, is now pretty generally conceded.
One of the defects of the old 844 system was that pupils when entering high school were confronted with an array of curricula and courses about which they knew nothing. They were told to elect a curriculum and then possibly courses within the curriculum. They had had no inkling of the nature of the high-school course. Algebra and geometry were mere terms, as were Latin, French, social science, biology, physics, and chemistry. The general course in mathematics, physical science, social science, languages, manual arts, and other subjects provided in the junior high school introduces the pupils to the specialized courses in the senior high school by permitting them to explore their interests, aptitudes, and capacities. In the manual arts, for instance, a boy may explore in many lines, so that if he leaves school at the end of the junior high school course he will have a better idea for which trade he is fitted; and if he remains to enter senior high school, he will know which of the technical or trade courses he can pursue with most profit.
Prof. Thomas Briggs, 10 speaking of exploratory courses with references to their value in enabling pupils to elect wisely, says:
This exploration, then, gives each pupil some knowledge of the general field more exhaustively studied in higher courses, and thus enables him to choose more wisely his future curriculum. Our system of electives in the senior high school and in college presupposes an intelligent and informed elector; under the old system he might be intelligent but not informed. If, as is quite possible, such exploring courses should lead a pupil into a general elective which later he might wish to change, he still could do so and not be
10 Proc. of 520 Convocation, University State of New York, 1916, pp. 97–100.
more retarded in his program than most pupils are today. Exploration at the age of 12 to 14 is much more economical than it is two or more years later.
This is a point that can not be too much emphasized in enumerating the purposes of the junior high school. General introductory courses in the junior high school make possible two things that were not possible in the old grammar-school grades, namely, (1) exploration, so that a pupil may elect wisely when he enters senior high school, (2) a good general education rather than a drill upon the three R's.
One of the purposes of the junior high school is to economize time-not necessarily in the sense that pupils will spend fewer years. in school, but that they may employ their time more profitably. No doubt after a thorough reorganization of the program of studies from the kindergarten up, and not from the college down, much more can be accomplished than is now the case in the 12 years devoted to elementary and secondary instruction. Possibly one or two years of junior college work could be done within the 12 years, thus saving the city boy and girl two years in college. This, however, is a matter for experimentation.
FORMS OF ORGANIZATION
The larger cities have uniformly adopted the 6-3-3 form of organization. In the smaller cities there is not such uniformity of practice. Some of these have acoptell the 6–3–3 plan and others the 6–6 plan. In some, schools have been organized on the 6-24 plan. The 6–3–3 plan, lowever, seems to be the prevailing one and to meet with the favor of most authorities on secondary education. In some few cities where the 11-year public-school system is in operation, the schools have been reorganized on the 5–3–3 plan, which is undoubtedly better than the 7-4 plan in that this latter plan does not offer any opportunity for exploratory courses. The 5–3–3 plan has the same purpose as cloes the 6–33–3 plan. The only question to be answered is whether the elementary-school course should be shortened to five years. Possibly this can be clone in those cities where children enter the first grade of the elementary school at seven years of age, as is the case in San Antonio, Tex., in which city the schools have been reorganized on the 5–3–3 plan. Experimentation with this type of organization will be watched with interest.
In the larger cities the tendency is to erect separate junior high school buildings having their own organization. In some of the medium-sized cities a modified 6–3–3 plan has been adopted by erecting a combination junior-senior high school building, the junior high school occupying one section of the building and the senior high school another section. The special activities rooms—as auditorium, gymnasium, and shop-are used in common. One principal is in charge of both schools, but the actual duties are often delegated to an assistant. It is apparent that in a school system enrolling about 1,000 pupils in grades 7 to 12, this type of organization is more economical than that of having a separate junior high school building.
In the smaller cities where the secondary school enrollment is only two or three hundred, the junior-senior high school usually constitutes one unit. Certain advantages may be secured by housing the seventh to twelfth year pupils in one building. These may be stated as follows: 11
1. The seventh and eighth year pupils are benefited by a better material equipment, including the use of the gymnasium and shops of the senior school.
2. The seventh and eight year pupils gradually approach senior high school conditions by personal acquaintance. This bridges the chasm between elementary and secondary school work to a large extent.
3. A feeling of mutual respect and a spirit of mutual helpfulness are created between the teachers of the earlier and later secondary school years.
1. The seventh-year work is better taught (upon the whole) in the 0-6 plan by a more considerable treatment of ninth-year pupils.
5. The one secondary-school principal exerts a more positive and beneficial influence over his pupils by securing two added years for their supervision and guidance.
6. This housing in one building may prove the entering wedge for the introduction of many modern and so-called junior high school ideas of management and method by which the whole six-year period of secondary education may be harmonized.
More may be expected of junior high schools when all the pupils of a city are enrolled in such schools. If there are only a few junior high schools scattered throughout a city the graduates of such schools will have some difficulty in transferring to the regular fouryear high school. Once a city has organized one or two junior high schools, some adjustment should be made in the junior high school to the courses offered in the regular high school.
According to the report of the committee that made a survey of the junior high schools of New York City 12—
Experience has shown that if there are only a few junior high schools scattered throughout the various boroughs so that only a few 9B graduates enter senior high schools from them, those pupils have to encounter not only all the difficulties which pupils meet who go from one school to another, but, in addition, the disadvantages arising from the fact that their classmates are much more familiar with the high-school organization, the teachers, the
11 The Junior High School in Smaller Cities, ly Jas. K. Van Denburgh, Educ. Rev., Feb., 1924.
12 Survey of Junior High Schools, New York City, 1923.