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and mothers were conversant seem strange to us now, and I refer to them only to show that, notwithstanding all the defects of our present educational system, its puerile methods and its meager results, there has been constant improvement, not only in the classes reached, but in the matter taught and in the methods used since 1792, when a Massachusetts town was indicted for voting "pot be at any expense for schoolmg girls."
It is with this optimistic spirit that I approach the discussion of this much analyzeil subject of English.
At the very outset I am pleased to state that it is my conviction that the highest interests of our schools would be subserved if, without a plus or a minus, and withont a single attempt at exegesis, this most admirablo and most exhaustive report of the conference on English could be adopted and placed on trial as the “ne plus ultra" of matter and method in the instruction of the English language and of English literature in all onr primary and secondary schools.
I do not agree, in my possible iguorance and stnpidity, with all the propositions of all the conferences as set forth in this cducational encyclical, but I am in hearty accoril with this superb report of the conference on English, which is so largely permeated with the empirical thought of that teaching genius, Dr. Samuel Thurber, who by his ponderous strokes upon the anvil of everlasting truth has aroused on this subject the white licat of enthusiasm. His ii'eas may seem somewhat Utopian when we stand face to face with the heterogeneous elements of our cosmopolitan schools, but it is only throngh this looking up and lifting up spirit that we can ever approach those ideals which shall find all our children in a condition of intelligent homogeneity.
It is not my province to discuss the recommendations of the conference relative to elementary schools; but “if," quoting from the report, “during the period of life when imitation is tho chief motive priuciple in education,” the child could "be kept away from the influence of bad models and under the influence of gooil models,” and if “every thought which he expresses would be used as a proper subject for criticisin as to language,” all of which is practically impossible amıd such a lamentable lack of language culture among the common school teachers of tv-day, then indeed would there be little to change or criticise in our secondary schools, and our colleges would be a veritable “Paradise Regamed” for the professors of literature. · It is the process of undoing what has been poorly done, and doing what has been left undono that dissipates the strength, shocks the sensibilities, and destroys the nerves of our secondary teachers, most of whom are the products of the wisdom of the colleges.
Wheu the radical reforms now being attempted shall have culminated in perfecting the what and the how in our lower schools, then shall we make axiomatic the maxim that the beginning is half the end.
Taking exceptions to the brief and summary way in which the committee discard the spelling book, which we believe to be still a spell of power and of might in all schools where the foreign element largely predominates, we commend this portion of the report as a New Testament on the teaching of English.
I do not echo the universal opinion of all competent to judge in maintaining that language is or ought to be the basic study in all our schools. It is the fountain head whence flow all the helpful, healing streams of education. Languaye is the key that unlocks all human thought and gives voice to all human aspirations. To think well, to speak well, to write well—these are the rightful heritage, the common prerogative of all who are correctly educated.
Words are ammunition in the battery of intelligence, steam in the engines of thonght, true coin in the exchange marts of scholastic culture. A man without words is like a beautiful ship launched upon the welcome bosom of the sea without a pilot. There is no substitute for language. It is the common carrier of all thought, the drawn sword of all strife, and the ono language that American pupils should
study through all their career is the English language. Courses of instruction, however, that confine language study to the English, eliminating foreign tongues, ancient or modern, ignominiously fail in the production of that power essential to modern culture.
I would have children at the age of 10 or 11 years commence the study of that language which, in the fields of persuasion and philosophy, of literature and law, is so largely the progenitor of the English–the incomparablo Latin. This is the international arsenal out of which men in all ages have taken the weapons of words with which they have fought the battles of all genuine culture. Latin is the Carboniferous age in its relation to modern thought. We heat our firesides now by the consumed and adapted sunlight of Paleozoic times, so the light of modern literature and
law comes from the intellectual sunlight that warmed the souls of the great masters of Greece and Rome. Sido by side in daily stndy the two languages should be pursued, the Latin constantly illuminating the Euglish, and making the study of our native tongue more and more a delight, therefore more and more fascinating, and as an inevitable sequenco more and more profitable.
It can not be controverted that Latin, as some one has recently written, is the most valuable and loyal handmaid in securing that accurate and discriminating use of
the English language which is tho sign and seal of the educated and the cultured. ✓ I therefore deprecate the force and fervor of that movement, now gathering strength,
which would permit some modern language to usurp the place which rightly belongs to Latin, and for which there is no adequate alternative.
In large cities, for political and purely utilitarian reasons, German may be suffered as an elective, but to introduce French as a culture study into onr grammar schools, to accompany that of the English to the exclusion of Latin, will work mischief and defeat the very ends for which we all labor, viz, a fluent and facile use of the English language as an instrument for the expression of thought by our pupils.
The controversial history of the last two decades in regard to humane studies has established the fact that there is no substitute for classical culture. I still believe in the Cape Horn route of culture, not in the short cut, the miasmatic way across the Isthmus.
If we would be strong, we must contend with something-resist something-conquer something. We can not gain muscle “on a bed of eiderdown.” Toying with straws will only enervate the faculties. The blacksmith's arm becomes mighty through his ponderous strokes of the hammer upon the anvil. Tho very facility of acquisition of tho modern langnages precludes the possibility of discipline. V Put Latin into our common schools and the puzzling problem of English grammar will be nearing its solution, for the why that meets the pupil at every step, the very laborionsness and difficulty of the task, will open tho intellect, develop the powers of discrimination and adaptation, enlarge the vocabulary, enable the student to write a better English essay, use a more terse and trenchant style of speech, and grasp with more avidity and keenness any promulgated form of thought than if he should spend quintuple the time in the study of English grammar alone.
It is true that the English conference, as President Eliot says, “intend that the study of English shall be in all respects as serious and informing as tbo study of Latin,” but they did not commit the error of saying that it should be as serious and informing as the study of French.
Permitting me to digress a moment, I have always believed until recently that the course of study in our high schools should be the same, whether the pupil's immediato outlook was the activities of life or a college course; that a good preparation for college was the best preparation for any alternative; but the demand on the part of some of the leading colleges that pupils must enter with an elementary knowledge of three foreign languages will forever prevent this desideratum on the part of our high schools.
Pupils can not afford to devote so large a portion of their time to foreign languages at tho risk of not going to college; but substitute one or two sciences, physies and chemistry or biology for one foreign language, ancient or modern, then will the high schools of this country rise to the occasion and infuse the college spirit into all their pupils.
While no one will essay to contravene the logic that every teacher in every school (and I would not except the college) should be a paragon of excellence in tho use of English, exemplars of a pure and polished style and untiring critics of those habits formed from environment which make our young people careless in their choice and slovenly in their arrangement of words, spoken and written, novertheless I believe it of paramount importance that the department of rhetoric, English language, and English literature should be under the care of special teachers who are enthused on this subject; teachers of contagious personal influence, who worship at the throne of language, who have mastered the subtlo power of rhetoric, and who constitute a thesaurus of English literature, from which they may enrich the heart, stimulate the intellect, and infuso the reading spirit into the soul of every pupil.
To bo snro a physicist who looks with contempt upon the idea that ho must watch the English expressions of his pupils in the laboratory and correct the form as well as the fact of their written exercises is a poor teacher and onght not to be tolerated, yet, as it is essential that science shonld be taught by scientists, and mathematics by niathematicians, and Latin and Greek by superb linguists, so it is equally desir. able that the essentials of a good style in writing and the inculcation of a tasto for good reading shonld be in the keeping of specialists who have made the history and the masterpieces of literature their chief delight.
As we can learn to converse only by conversing, to debate only by debating, and to write only by writing, so the pupils in all schools of all grades, including especially the college and the university, should be constantly employed in giving their thoughts a tongue and in transferring them to written exercises, essays, and theses.
Rhetoric is being taught to-day in the colleges very much as it is in the high schools, and with about the same results. There is too much distrust of the higher for the lower, and time is wasted in trying to do what we are prone to believe others bave left undone. We can never lead students up the mountain heights, into the ether of a rarer culture if we sit and complain of the ruggedness of the foothills.
The demand for reform and rejuvenation and inspiration in matter and methods on the part of the colleges is just as great as on the part of the high schools.
It is evident that somebody's feelings had to be very tenderly nursed, or the Eng. lish conference would not have fallen into such an euphemistic expression as “We believe that the correction of specimens of bad English should not form more than one-fifth of the admission examination.” Having been born to no master, I would say onc
millionth instead of one-fifth. Neither good philosophy nor good pedagogy will sustain the theory that the correct can be safely taught through contrast with the incorrect. As well may we give our pupils long and involved sentences in profanity in order to show by contrast that wo can be equally emphatic without being sacrilegious. As well may we slake the thirst of our children with whisky in order to prove tho more exhilarating effects of good water. Were our children neither to see nor to hear at home, at school, or in the byways any incorrect English, there would be removed great mountains of difficulty in our efforts to secure for our pupils a pleasing acquisition of good forms of expression.
A book of 150 pages was recently placed in my hands, fashioned after this plan of doing evil that good may come. It is replete with bad specimens and incorrect expressions of English. It abounds with chaff from which wheat is expected to germinate. It is prepared by and has the strongest indorsement of college professors of English. It contains, as do many similar books, specimens of examination guestions used by Harvard and other exemplary institutions.
So long, and, O Lord, how long! So long as New England colleges insist in dividing the entranco cxamination in English into two parts-tho second of which shall be “The candidate will be required to correct specimens of bad English set for hiin at the time of the examination"—so long will our secondary schools produce miserable results in a study that on yht to bo the crown and tho glory of those schools.
At the risk of excommunication, I would recommend that a conference of primary and secondary teachers be appointel to suggest to the colleges some rational method of examination in English; then woull this idea of correcting bad specimens be “ relegated to the limbo of discarded absurdities.”
I am not quite in sympathy with the plan to postpono the study of technical rhetoric until the third year, to be limited to forty lessous. I appreciate that this course is in good forin, and quite consonant with tho dictum of the so called inductive metliod. O, tlou baleful word induction, what sins are committed in thy pame! Yet I believe that, following the pursuit of technical English grammar in the lower schools, there should bo a somewhat systematic sturly of thio principles and maxime of elementary rhetoric and English composition in the first year of the high schools; that all theso exercises should be illustrated and illuminated by the reading of choice specimens of English stylo aud by original work on tlio part of the pupil, as a basis for the aster study of the English classics and of English literature. In this way the first object of the teaching of English may be secured, viz: “To enable a pupil to understand the expressed thonght of others and to give expression to thoughts of lis own." To secure the second, viz: “To cultivate a tasto for good reading, to give tho pupil some acquaintance with good literature, and to furnish him with the means of extending that acquaintance.” I would bare forty or fisty books for the English laboratory of each of the high schools. They should be furnished in such quantities in duplicate as to accommodato all tho pupils; they must be wisely graded anıl selected with the greatest care as to style and content; they should bo suited to all talent and to every good taste, anıl each pupil should be bo encouraged to read one book a month throughout the entire course. In the earlior years lio should present original repro,luctions of somo of these books, and as his ability to reflect and draw inferences increases he should prepare intelligent book reviews.
All this written work should be conscientiously and pleasurably criticised with each individual writer, the best productions read as class exercises, and frequent conversations indulged in between teachers and pupils concerning the motive of the book and the lessons it inculcates.
This is no idle theory. I havo watched its results for some years, and it is no exaggeration to say that I know of scores of pupils the current of whose life and character has been turned into new channels by this method and who will be readers of the best literature while lifo lasts, always finding contentment, even in solitudo, anil enjoying the sublimest associations, whatever be their lot in the daily drudgery of life.
In conclusion, in no one study has there been such advancement in late years as in the teaching of English, and since all educational reform must come from above, if the colleges will modify their methoil of examination, abandon the deleterious system of presenting specimens of bad Englislı for correction, allow our high schools to introduce a laboratory method of teaching English similar to that used in the departmert of physics, permitting pupils to present notebooks, essays, and book reviews as a partial test of their preparation, change the requirements of admission in foreign languages to two instead of three, allow a few discreet substitutions in the sciences, then will the requirements of graduation from the high schools and the requirements of admission to the colleges bo in harmony, aud we shall enter upon a new era of educational progress in this country before we cross the threshold of the twentieth century.
THE REPORT FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE LARGE MIXED HIGH
Discussion by Principal 0. D. Robinson, Of the Albany (N. Y.) High School, at the thirty-second university convocation of
the State of New York, July 5-7, 1894. Secondary schools may be briefly classified as of three kinds—the endowed academy, the wealthy boarding school, and the high school. The old-fashioned academy, as it is called, is rapidly passing away, giving place in some instances to the endowed academy or the expensive boarding school, and in others and more frequently, to the union school or high school. The problems for these different classes of schools are quite different and distinct. The endowed academies have been very properly termed fitting schools, and as I understand it they were and are doing their work very satisfactorily. The only difficulty is the lack of a common basis of admission to college, so that students could go from any of these large schools into any of the colleges. The same might be said of the boarding schools, for though the course there may be longer and not so definite, yet we know that in general boys and girls go to these schools to stay till they are prepared for college or till they have accomplished a certain course of study, whether that bo longer or shorter. The question is whether the report of the committee of ten and their specimen programmes satisfy as well the demands of the typical or ordinary high school as of these other schools, for it is from the latter mostly that we have heard.
What do we mean by the typical high school? We mean the school of the city or large town, generally a mixed school, that is composed botli of girls and boys, whero they enter from the grammar schools after completing a certain fixed course in preliminary studies there. The typical high school was represented by a single individual only and ho not widely known. Dr. Harris, a man of great experience, understood the problem of the high school perhaps better than anyone else on the committee, unless it were Dr. Baker, who has had large experience in the not distant past. Of the other secondary school men one, a very able man, is principal of perhaps the wealthiest boys' boarding school in the United States, but the problem there is very different from that in the ordinary city high school. The other was the head master of tho girls' Latin school of the city of Boston, a very able man and a man of large experience, yet at the head of a school just as entirely different from the ordinary high school as is the old endowed academy, liko Exeter or Andover. As a result, the majority at least of the members of the committee, having had no recent experience in such work, failed to appreciate its needs as wo do who are trying to solve its difficult problems.
From the standpoint of the high school teacher, though the criticism applies to other schools also, I was entirely dissatisfied with the relegation of Greek to two years in a four-year course. I could not at first understand the position of my colleagues of secondary schools on that point till I remembered that the head master of the Boston Latin school has charge of a school in which the course is six years for Latin and three or four, I presume, for Greek, so that the recommendation would not touch his school at all; in the other case the head master of the school for boys has simply the problem of fitting boys for college. They come to him and stay til? they get ready for college. But I could not understand the position of presidents of colleges and universities who were willing to deduct virtually one-third from the preparatory study of that subject which is the characteristic study of the classical course, and substitute a study which the committee has put itself on record as saying must under present conditions be inferior. I could not believe that seven or eight colleges were getting students too well fitted in Greek, a complaint I had never heard of before, but with the exception of one obstinate member there seemed to be perfect unanimity in relegating the preparatory Greek to two years instead of three.