Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

teachers by inspecting and criticising their work, and showing thom, both by precept and example, how to do it better.

In regard to preparing young men and women for the business of teaching, the country has a right to expect much more than it has yet obtained from the colleges and normal schools. The common expectation of attainment for pupils of the nor. mal schools has been altogether too low the country over. The normal schools, as a class, themselves need better apparatus, libraries, programmes, and teachers. As to the colleges, it is quite as much an enlargement of sympathies as an improvement of apparatus or of teaching that they need. They ought to take more interest than they have heretofore done, not only in the secondary, but in the elementary schools; and they ought to take pains to fit men well for the duties of a school superintendent. They already train a considerable number of the best principals of high schools and academies; but this is not sufficient. They should take an activo interest, through their presidents, professors, and other teachers, in improving the schools in their respective localities, and in contributing to the thorough discuesion of all questions affecting the welfare of both the elementary and the secondary schools.

Finally, the committee venture to suggest, in tho interest of secondary schools, that uniform dates—such as the last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, or the third Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Juno and September—be established for the admission examinations of colleges and scientific schools throughout the United States. It is a serious inconvenience for secondary schools which habitually prepare candidates for several different colleges or scientific schools that the admission examinations of different institutions are apt to occur on different dates, sometimes rather widely separated.

The committee also wish to call attention to the service which schools of law, medicinc, engineering, and technology, whether connected with universities or not, can render to secondary education by arranging their requirements for admission, as regards selection and range of subjects, in conformity with the courses of study recommended by the committee. By bringing their entrance requirements into close relation with any or all of the programmes recommended for secondary schools, these professional schools can give valuable support to high schools, academies, and preparatory schools.

CHARLES W. ELIOT.
WILLIAM T. HARRIS.
JAMES B. ANGELL.
JOHN TETLOW.
JAMES M. TAYLOR.
Oscar D. Robinsox.
JAMES H. BAKER.
RICHARD H. JESSE.
JAMES C. MACKENZIE.

HENRY C. KING.
DECEMBER 4, 1893.

President Baker signs the above report, but adds the following statement: To the National Council of Education :

I beg leave to note some exceptions taken to parts of the report of the committee of ten. Had the committee not been limited in time, doubtless fuller discussion would have resulted in modifying some statements embodied in the report. The great value of the reports of the conferences upon the subjects referred to them, as to matter, place, time, methods, adequate and continuous work for each subject, and identity of work in different courses, and the masterly summary and tabulation of their recommendations, made by the chairman of the committee of ten, can but invite cordial commendation. Objections are raised to parts of the special work of the committee.

(1) I can not indorso espressions that appear to sanction the idea that the choice of subjects in secondary schools may be a matter of comparative indifference. I note especially the following sentenees, referring the reader to their context for accurate interpretation:

“Any school principal may say: 'With the staff at my command I can teach only five subjects out of those proposed by the conferences in the manner proposed. My school shall, therefore, be limited to these five.' Another school may be able to teach in the thorough manner proposed five subjects, but somo or all of these five may be different from those selected by the first sehool."

"If twice as much time is given in a school to Latin as is given to mathematics, the attainments of the pupils in Latin onght to be twice as great as they are in matbematics, provided that equally good work is done in the two subjects, and Latin will have twice the educational value of mathematics."

“ The schedule of studies contained in Table III permits flexibility and variety in three respects. First, it is not necessary that any school should teach all the subjects whieh it contains, or any particular set of subjects."

“Every yonth who entered college would have spent four years in studying a few subjects thoroughly; and on the theory that all subjects are to be considered equivalent in educational rank for the purpose of admission to college, it would make no difference which subjects he had chosen from the programme-he would have had four years of strong and effective mental training."

All such statements are based upon the theory that for the purposes of general education one study is as good as another, a theory which appears to me to ignore philosophy, psychology, and science of education. It is a theory which makes education formal and does not consider the naturo and value of the content. Power comes through knowledge; we can not conceive of observation and memory in the abstract. The world which offers to the human mind several distinct views is the world in which our power that comes through knowledge is to be used, the world which we are to understand and enjoy. The relation between the subjective power and the objective-or subjective-knowledge is inseparable and vital. On any other theory, for general ednication, we might well consider the study of Egyptian hieroglyphics as valuable as that of physies and Choctaw as important as Latin. Secondary school programmes can not well omit mathematics, or science, or history, or literature, or •the culture of tho ancient classics. An education which gives a view in all directions is the work of elementary and secondary schools. Such an education is the necessary preparation for the special work of the university student. If I rightly understood, the majority of the committeo rejected the theory of equivalence of studies for general education.

Studies vary in value for the training of the different powers, and for this additional reason the choice can not be regarded as a matter of indifference.

The training of “observation, memory, expression, and reasoning” (inductive) is a very important part of education, but is not all of education. The imagination, deductive reasoning, the rich possibilities of emotional life, the education of tlo will through ethical ideas and correct habit, all are to be considered in a scheme of learning. Ideals are to be added to the scientifie method.

The dilemma which appears on an examination of the time demands of the various conferences offers to the programme maker the alternatives of omitting essential subjects and of a rational adjustment of the time element, while retaining all essential subjects. Reason and experience point toward the latter alternative. By wise selection of matter within the lines of study adequate and consecutive time can be given to each.

(2) The language of the second paragraph following Table II might be misconstrued to mean that the committee favor the multiplication of conrses with a loss of the thoroughness attainable when the teaching force is devoted to one or two courses. Intention rather than extension of effort, both in respect to the number of courses and in respect to the number of studies or topics under each principal subject, is to bo strongly recommended.

(3) It may seem trivial to offer criticism of the specimen programmes made by the committee, and yet I believo that each member felt that with ample deliberation results somewhat different would have been reached. Note for instance that in some of the programmes history is entirely onnitted in the second year, and physics is given only three hours per week-no more time than is allowed for botany or zoology. There are many symmetrical secondary school programmes in actual operation to-day which furnish continuous instruction in all important subjects throughout the four years, allowing to each an amount of time adequate to good results. For most high schools the first, the classical programme, and the last programme, the ono offering one foreign language, will commend themselves because they are economical, and they combine a good finishing course with adequate college preparation,

(4) On the basis of the tabulated results of the conferences I believe that by earnest scientific examination a scheme of work can be formulated that will meet the views of the members of the committee and of most educators. As an asterthought it may be an occasion for regret that tho strength of the discussion was not devoted to Table III. Instead of considering the work of the committee as ended, I would recommend that the National Council hold itself responsible for further examination of the data furnished by the conferences. I have not presumed to offer a substitute report, because I believe that the importance of the work demands further effort of an entire committee. Respectfully submitted.

JAMES H. BAKER.

THE REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES.

By NICHOLAS MURRAY BUTLER. It has come to be distinctly recognized that any far-reaching educational reform in this country must begin with the secondary schools. The elementary school is helpless if the secondary school refuses to cooperate with it in raising the standard of scholarship and improving the methods of instruction, and but few colleges are strong enough to demand of the secondary schools more and better work than the latter are now doing. Persuasion on the part of the colleges has in some cases accomplished a good deal, but the improvement has been limited either to one or two subjects of instruction, or to the schools of a relatively small territory. The secondary schools themselves, not always conducted in a wise or generous spirit, have too often sacrificed the necessities of sound training to the local demand for an ambitious programme containing two score or more of school subjects, no one of which is pursued far enough or long enough for the pupil to derive from it the educational value it possesses; or, they have erred on the other side, and in the devotion to a past ideal excluded from the curriculum whole fields of kuowledge that have grown up within a century. Thus the secondary school has appeared to many observers not only to scatter a pupil's energies and interests, but to delay him unduly. The consoquence is, as President Eliot showed very clearly several years ago, that the American boy of 15 or 16, no whit inferior to his French or German fellow in native ability, is from two to three years behind him in acquired knowledge.

To remedy so apparent an evil as this would be an easy task in France or in Prussia. The minister of education would consult his official advisers and call the leading educational experts to his council, in a few weeks an order would issue prescribing for the schools a new and reformed procedure. In this way, Lehrpläne and Lehraufgaben for the higher schools of Prussia were issued in 1882, and again in 1892. Similarly, in 1890 the existing Plan d'Études et Programmes of

1 From the Atlantio Monthly, March, 1894.

the secondary schools in France was promulgated. In this country, however, where no central educational administration exists, and where bureaucracy is not popular, educational reforms can be brought about only by persuasion and cooperation, for no official and no institution is empowered to dictate to us. The press, the platform, the teachers' meeting, must be availed of to put forward new ideas, and mon and women in large numbers must be reasoned with and convinced in order to secure their acceptance.

For secondary education, and through it for our educational organization generally, a long step has been taken in this direction by the proceedings that led np to the appointment of the committee of ten by the National Educational Association, and by the exceedingly valuable report which that committee has just laid before the public.

For thirty years the National Educational Association has been known as a large body of teachers that assembled annually to listen to addresses and discussions of more or less practical value. It has come to command an attendance of as many as 16,000 teachers of all classes and from every section of the country. Its power and authority have increased with its size and its representative character. In 1892, the directors of this association determined to pass from the field of mere discussion, and begin an educational investigation, under their own auspices and paid for out of their own funds, that should result in somo practical gain to the country at large. 'I hey accepted the suggestion, made to them after careful deliberation, that the problems connected with secondary education should be vigorously and systematically attacked, and appointed a committee, which has come to be known as the committee of ten, to take full charge of the task, at the same time appropriating $2,500 to pay the expenses of the work. The members of this committee were carefully selected with a view to giving representation to the types of educational organization most interested, and to the various sections of the country.

As finally constituted, tho committee was made up of one president of an Eastorn university, two presidents of Western State universities, and one of a Southern State university, one president of a college for women, one professor in a Western college open to both sexes, one headmaster of an endowed academy, one principal of a public high school for both sexes, one principal of a public high school for girls only, and the Commissioner of Education, whose familiarity with the principles and practice of education in every part of the United States gave representation, indirectly, both to the elementary school interest and to the special students of education.

The procedure adopted by the committee of ten is fully described in the report to which it is the object of this paper to direct attention. It may be briefly stated thos:

After a study of the whole problem, it was decided to appoint nine conferences of ten members each-ono conference for each of the main divisions of work that fall properly to the secondary school. The members of the conferences were selected equally, as nearly as possible, from college and school instructors who had attained a reputation in connection with the subject of their conference, due regard being had also to the representation of various educational interests and the several sections of the country.

The several conferences assembled in December, 1892, at convenient points, and 88 of the 90 members were in attendance. Of these 88, 46 were in the service of colleges and universities, 41 in the service of schools, and 1 was a government ofticial formerly in the service of a university. So admirablo aro the lists of members of these conferences that it is difficnlt to speak of them without enthusiasm. Among the 90 names will be found many that stand in the foremost rank of American scholarship, and no one of the 90 was without valuable educational experience of some kind. This fact of itself gives great weight to their recommendations, anıl their exhaustive reports, which are appended to the report of tho com mittee of ten, are a mine of educational information and suggestion of the utmost value.

The first impression produced by a study of the reports of the special conferences is that their members addressed themselves to their task with marked skill and directness. The questions submitted to them are answered, and answered fully, and the answers are accompanied with the reasons therefor. From the standpoint of the old-fashioned preparatory schoolmaster, ignorant alike of the nower school subjects and of the newer methods of imparting life to the old ones, the changes urged by the conferences may seem many and radical. Yet it will be difficult to disprove the deliberate conclusion of the committee of ten that, on the whole, the spirit of the conferences was conservative and moderate. For example, the Latin conference distinctly disclaim any desire to see the college admission reqnirements in Latin increased. The Greek conference prefer to seo the average age of entrance to college lowered rather than raised. The mathematics conference recommend the actual abridging of the timo now devoted to arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The geography conference agree that the time now spent upon that subject in the schools is out of all proportion to the value of the results secured.

As a matter of course, the conferences that dealt with the modern languages and tho several departments of natural science had the largest amount of work to do. Greek, Latin, and mathematics have been staple school subjects for generations. They aro carefully organized and graded. Adequate text-books are provided. A large body of teaching experience lies behind each of them. Of the other subjects this is not true. They appear only sporadically in schools. Too often they are taught badly, and their educational valuo is lost. The conferences dealing with the modern subjects make it clear in every case how these evils may be avoided; but their reports are correspondingly longer and more minute than those on the other subjects. The conferences on physics, astronomy, and chemistry, for example, append to their reports an elaborate outline of experiments to be performed and topics to be taught in the secondary school. The reports from the conferences on history, civil government, and political economy, geography, and natural history aro similarly detailed.

The recommendations of the conference on English will naturally be turned to first; for the tendency to emphasize the importance of the study of the mother tongue, and to improve the methods of teaching it, is now too strong and too general to bo resisted, if indeed anyone wishes to resist it. The report of this conference is very short, but it is extremely clear and cogent. In substance, it says that tho proper use of English can only be gained by using it properly in exereises of increasing difficulty and variety. The spelling book is discountenanced. Formal grammar is relegated to the subordinate place that it deserves. The reading book should contain real literature, and not articles on physical science or natural history, and but little sentimental poetry. In the high school it is held that English should havo as much time allotted to it as Latin, and that the two points to be kept constantly in mind in the teaching are the study of literature and training in the expression of thought. All this advice is so sound that, being now given a quasiofficial authority, it should be followed generally in the secondary schools, both public and private.

The fact that education can not be cut up into artificial periods distinct in themselves is brought out by almost every conference. They agree in saying that the elementary school must improve, and must cooperate with the secondary school if the latter is to meet the demands now made upon it. English teaching can not be neglected from 6 to 13 if good results in it are to be obtained from 13 to 17. It is facts like this that give the reports of the conferences their chief significance. Though dealing ostensibly and directly with secondary education only, they reach every nook and corner of the elementary school as well.

It is extremely encouraging, also, to find the nine conferences and the committee of ten, 100 teachers in all, in cordial agreement on many points of fundamental importance. It is laid down, for instance, that no school subject should be tanght in different ways to pupils who are going to college, to a scientific school, or to neither.

« AnteriorContinuar »