Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

braced in each division, the closeness of the articulation of the divisions, and the types of schools which have been evolved to provide instruction. This arrangement was characteristic of the educational practices of ancient Greece.1 The first period beyond infancy, extending from the beginning of the sixth or eighth year to the end of the fourteenth or sixteenth year, was the period of school education; the second, extending from the beginning of the fourteenth or sixteenth year to the end of the twentieth or twenty-first (in Sparta, the thirtieth), was that of college education; and the third, from about the twentieth on, was devoted to university education.2

The education of the Roman youth also came to be broken into this threefold arrangement a century or more before the Christian era. Upon reaching his sixth or seventh year the Roman child began his elementary instruction either at home or in a limdus publicum, where he learned reading, writing, and simple calculation. At about the age of 12 the boy passed into the school of the grammaticus, where he was instructed in grammar, in the narrower sense, learned portions of Homer and other poets by heart, and began the critical study of literature and composition. At the age of about 16 the boy exchanged the toga praetexta for the toga virilis, a ceremony which marked the assumption of the responsibilities of manhood. His education thenceforth depended upon his future occupation. Those intended for a farmer's life went to live at some farm station; those intended for the army passed into the service; and those intended for public life or for pleaders and jurists went to the rhetorical schools, and thereafter attended the forum, the comitia, and the senate, attaching themselves to some admired orator or jurist.3

In modern times the beginning of an articulated system of education was faintly foreshadowed in the school plan of Philip Melancthon (1528). After visiting the churches and schools of Thuringia, at the instance of the Elector, he recommended that children be arranged in three distinct groups, the first consisting of those who are learning to read; the second, those who have learned to read and are ready for grammar; and the third, comprising those who, having become proficient in grammar, are ready to take up prosody and advanced work in the classics.4 Crude attempts were made by Melancthon's contemporaries, Sturm (1537)5 and Trotzendorf (1531),6 to develop a school organization. The schools of these men, in turn, formed the general model upon which the German schools of the sixteenth century were organized, instanced by the school codes of Wurttemberg (1559) and Saxony (1580), the purpose of which was stated in the preamble to the former, as follows: "To carry youth from the elements through successive grades to the degree of culture demanded for offices in the church and state."1 However, the first formulated plan for a system of education, comprehensive in scope and articulated in its parts, was not made until it was proposed by Comenius.

1 Davidson, Aristotle and Ancient Educational Ideals, p. 36.

2 Ibid., pp. 173-183.

3 Laurie, Historical Burceif of Pre-Christian Education, Chs. II—III.

4 Copious extracts from Melancthon, Book of Visitation (1528), in Am. Jour. Ed. (1S57), Vol. IV, pp. 749-751.

6 Sturm's course of study is given in detail, in Am. Jour. Ed. (1857), vol. 4, pp. KS9-182.

"The monitorial system of Trotzendorf is described by Karl Von Raumer, in Am. Jour. Ed. (1858), vol. 5, pp. 107-113.

Comenius's plan comprised three divisions, following infancy, corresponding to the three periods of childhood, adolescence, and youth.2 For the period of childhood, beginning at 6 and continuing to 12, Comenius would provide the "vernacular" or elementary school. For the period of adolescence, which he places between the years of 12 and 18, there is to be organized the " Latin" or secondary school. Finally, his scheme provides that during the period of youth from 18 to 24 the university (academia) and travel shall afford the means for higher education. So far behind theories, however, do practices lag that two and a half centuries elapsed before such an organization of schools as that suggested by the great Moravian reformer became common among the civilized nations of the world.

While the American arrangement of a tripartite division of education and of schools, therefore, conforms to the practice of all progressive countries and is based upon psychological as well as physiological facts,3 yet in respect to the quadrennial grouping that comprises each of its divisions America stands alone. Among the States and localities until within a very few years great variation in the length of each division has obtained. The elementary division has ranged in length from 6 to 9 and in a few places to 10 and even 11 years. Some localities when establishing high schools provided for but two years of secondary work, others for three, and still others for four. As late as 1888 so great was the variation in the time allotted to high-school courses that the department of secondary education of the National Education Association adopted a formal resolution demanding that the high-school period be made uniformly four years.4 Upon the founding of Harvard it was provided, in imitation of English usage, that the degree of bachelor of arts could be secured in three years. Before the beginning of the eighteenth

1 Early School Codes of Germany, by Karl Von Raumer, In Am. Jour. Ed. (1859), Vol. VI, pp. 426-434.

'Comenius Didactica, Chs. XXVII-XXXI ; also Monroe, Comenius, pp. 103-106.
'See discussion by Hinsdale, Sen. Rev. (1806), vol. 4, pp. 513-522.
•Nat. Ed. Assoc, 1888, pp. 403-4.

century, however, in view of deficient preparation the course was lengthened to four years. In 1850 Brown University defined the amount of study for the degree of bachelor of arts as "something that may be accomplished in three years, but which may, if he pleases, occupy the student profitably for four years." In 1876, when Johns Hopkins University was thrown open, the undergraduate course for the degree of bachelor of arts was three years, though the admission requirements wTere somewhat higher for such students.1 Now eight years constitute the elementary course, four years the secondary, and four years the collegiate in the States, except in New England and the Southern States, where for the most part the elementary course ^embraces nine years in the one and seven years in the other.

Some have tried to trace this arrangement back to the medieval quadrivium, but that should lead to four great subjects rather than to a quadrennium.2 Others have tried to show, with poor success, that this grouping has evolved naturally and in response to the 'operation of social forces which are irresistible in their operation. The first public utterance of weight that called into serious question the organization of the school system was that of President Eliot, at the Washington meeting of the Department of Superintendence of the National Education Association in 1888. In this address, entitled "Can School Programmes be Shortened and Enriched ?"3 President Eliot asserted that for the past 60 years the average age of college admission has steadily risen, reaching 18 years and 10 months at Harvard, and that the period beyond college graduation required for professional training had lengthened to three or four years, with the result that "the average college graduate who fits himself wrell for any one of the learned professions, including teaching, can hardly begin to support himself before he is 27 years old." In this epoch-making address he maintained the 'desirability of condensing school courses to gain time and of increasing the efficiency of instruction in order to secure as high an admission standard as formerly. He also asserted that this was entirely possible by improving the teaching force of the schools through a better tenure of office and by raising the proportion of male teachers in the schools; by the improvement of school programs, making them substantial and interesting; by diminishing the number of reviews, , and by never aiming at the kind of accuracy which reviews, followed by examinations, are intended to enforce; by developing means . which will insure a normal rate of promotion from grade to grade; and by securing a longer school day and term.

» Wright, Sch. Rev. (1S97), vol. 5, pp. 69(5-709.
"See statement by Gilman, Educ. Rev. (Jan., 1891), vol. 1, p. 3.

"For address In full, see Eliot, Educational Reform, pp. 151-176; also In Nat. Ed. Assoc, 1888, pp. 101-118, printed in Bu. of Educ. Circulars, 1888.

5930°—10 i

This question of the steadily increasing age at which students enter college was one that had seriously concerned the Harvard president and his faculty for many years. As far back as 1872-73 this tendency had been publicly noted. In his report of that date, President Eliot, in discussing certain changes which had been made in the admission requirements of Harvard, pointed out that, while these had been essentially modified, they had not been made more difficult, and he added:

The average age of admission has gradually risen until it is now a little over 18 years, and the college faculty, thinking that age to be high enough, do not wish to require for admission anything more than a boy of 18 of fair capacity and industry may reasonably be expected to have learned.1

In his report of 1885-86 President Eliot again referred to this matter, asserting that three years of the discussion of admission requirements by the college faculty had resulted in the adoption of a compromise measure, which was expected to assist in bringing down the average age of admission to 18 or thereabouts. He added:

At present about two-fifths of the freshmeu are over 19 at entrance—a condition of things which the faculty views with concern.2

This situation, which was observed with growing alarm by the Harvard faculty, led to remedial efforts of four kinds: (1) Modifying college entrance requirements; (2) urging the parents of prospective college students to send their sons to college as soon as the latter were qualified; (3) shortening the college course from four years to three years; and (4) persuading the elementary arid secondary schoolmen generally to condense their courses.

The first of these movements, as has already been noted, can be traced back to the academic year 1872-73, when the Harvard faculty introduced a greater variety in the list of Latin and Greek authors from which selection was to be made; diminished the amount of Latin to be read, substituting therefor a book on Koman history; added a requirement in English composition; and permitted the can- • didate to take an examination on one-half of his preparatory work a year before his prescribed secondary work was completed.3 From time to time modifications were made, both in the subjects required and in the manner and time of conducting the examinations; such changes operating to secure greater flexibility, and yet being intended to maintain a standard of proficiency which the faculty deemed a youth of 18 could properly be expected to attain. Though options had been granted within the limits of given subjects, it was not until 1882 that the faculty took up the serious discussion of the extent to which options among different subjects should be allowed

1 Harvard Reports. 1872-73, p. 10.
- Ibid., 1885-86, pp. 7-9.
3 Ibid., 1872-73, pp. 47-51.

in the examination for admission to college.1 Three years later, 1885-86, this discussion was brought to a conclusion by the adoption of a measure which provided that secondary schools might submit three programs: (1) The classical program then in force, comprising in the main Latin, Greek, and mathematics; (2) a program retaining the elements of Greek and developing modern languages, mathematics, and physical science; (3) a program retaining the elements of Latin and developing English, modern languages, science, and history.2

The second of these movements grew out of a consideration of the results of the entrance examinations of 1888, which were held under the new plan of optional requirements announced two years before. These showed that between 6 and 7 per cent of the freshman class had passed their admission examinations one or more years before entering college, and that the parents were keeping many of their sons back, thinking that they were too young to begin their college work.3 In 1890 the board of overseers, upon the recommendation of the college faculty, authorized the president to send the following letter to the parents of high-school graduates:4

To parents and teachers of boys who intend to enter Harvard College:

In the opinion of all the college authorities the present average age of freshmen entering Harvard College (19 years) Is undesirably high.

While recognizing the fact that unfavorable circumstances necessarily retard, beyond the most advantageous age, the preparation for college of many young men who derive great benefit from a college course, the faculty believes that boys who have regularly attended a good school ought to be fully prepared to enter with profit upon their college course by the time they are 18 years old, or even before that age. The faculty thinks it unwise, as a rule, for parents or guardians to keep in school boys who are really prepared for college, or to keep out of college boys who have passed the admission examinations, unless because of ill health or of unusual immaturity of character.

The faculty respectfully requests the cooperation of all teachers who prepare boys for Harvard College, in the effort to reduce the average age of admission.

The_third plan which was proposed by the Harvard faculty, that of shortening the period of college education, was the most radical method suggested of lowering the age at which students might take up their professional work. It aroused vigorous discussion, as well as vehement protest, both among the Harvard faculty and among college teachers generally. The discussion was precipitated by a resolution of the academic council, voted in November, 1887—

that with a view to lower the average age at which bachelors of arts of Harvard College can enter the professional schools and the graduate department, the college faculty be requested to consider the expediency of a reduction of the college course.5

1 Harvard Reports, 1882-83, pp. 16, 17.

2 Ibid., 1885-86, pp. 7-9. 8 Ibid., 1887-88, p. 7.

* Ibid;, 1889-90, pp. 8, 9.

s ibid., 1887-88, pp. 12, 13 : see also Ueport of the College Dean, ibid., pp. 81-83.

« AnteriorContinuar »