Imágenes de páginas

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 incomparable 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 Carboniferons 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. Side by side in daily study the two languages should be pursued, the Latin constantly illuminating the English, and making the study of our native tongue more and more a delight, therefore more and more fascinating, and as an inevitable sequence 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 the 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 our 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 finent 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 believo in the Cape Horn route of culture, not in the short cut, the miasmatie 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. The very facility of acquisition of the modern languages precludes the possibility of discipline.

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 the 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 the 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 inust 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 the risk of not going to college; but substitute one or two sciences, physics 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 bo a paragon of excellence in the 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, nevertheless I believo 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 subtle power of rhetoric, and who constitute a thesaurus of English literature, from which they may enrich the heart, stimulate the intellect, and infuse the reading spirit into the soul of every pupil.

To be sure a physicist who looks with contempt upon the idea that he must watch the English expressions of his pupils in the laboratory and correct the form as well as the fact of their written exereises is a poor teacher and onght not to be tolerated, yet, as it is essential that science should be taught by scientists, and mathematics by mathematicians, and Latin and Greek by superb linguists, so it is eqnally desirable that the essentials of a good style in writing and the inculcation of a taste for good reading should be in the keeping of specialists who have made the history and tho masterpieces of literature their chief delight.

As we can learn to converse only by conversing, to debate only by debating, and to writo only by writing, so the pupils in all schools of all grades, including especially tho college and the university, should be constantly employed in giving their thoughts a tongue and in transferring them to written exercises, essays, and theses.

Rhetorie 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 have 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 English conference would not have fallen into such an euphemistic expression as “We believe that the correction of specimens of bad English shoull not form more than one-fifth of the admission examination.” Having been born to no master, I would say one-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 we can be equally emphatic without being sacrilegious. As well may we slake the thirst of our children with whisky in order to prove the more exhilarating effects of good water. Were our children neither to seo por 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 questions 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—the second of which shall bo “The candidate will bo required to correct specimens of bad English set for him at the time of the examination"-so long will our secondary schools produce miserable results in a study that ought to bo the crown and the glory of those schools.

At the risk of excommunication, I would recommend that a conference of primary and secondary teachers be appointed to suggest to the colleges some rational method of examination in English; then would this idea of correcting bad specimens bo “ relegated to the limbo of discarded absurdities."

I am not quite in sympathy with the plan to postpone the study of technical rhetoric until tho third year, to be limited to forty lessons. I appreciate that this course is in good form, and quite consonant with the dictum of the so called inductive method. O, thou baleful word induction, what sins are committed in thy name! Yet I believe that, following the pursuit of technical English grammar in the lower schools, there should be a somewhat systematic study of the principles and maxima of elementary rhetoric and English composition in tho first year of the high schools; that all tlieso exercises should bo illustrated and illuminated by the reading of choice specimens of English stylo and by original work on the part of the pupil, as a basis for the after study of the English classics and of English literature. In this way the first object of the teaching of English may bo secured, viz: “To enable a pupil to understand the expressed thought of others and to give expression to thoughts of his own." To secure the second, viz: “To cultivate a taste for good reading, to give thio pupil some acquaintance with good literature, and to furnish him with the means of extending that acquaintance." I would bave forty or fifty books for the English laboratory of each of the high schools. They should be furnished in such quantities in duplicate as to accommodate all the pupils; they must be wisely graded and selected with the greatest care as to stylo aud content; they should be suiteil to all talent aud to every good taste, and each pupil should be bo encouraged to read one book a mouth throughout the entiro course. In the earlier years lie should present original reprodluctions of some 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 iuculcates.

This is no idle theory. I have 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 life lasts, always finding contentment, even in solitude, anıl enjoying the sublimest associations, whatever be their lot in the daily drudgery of life.

In conclusion, in no one study has there been suclı advancement in late years as in thio teaching of English, and since all educational reform must come from above, if the colleges will modify their method of examination, abandon the deleterious system of presenting specimens of bad English for correction, allow our high schools to introduce a laboratory method of teaching English siinilar to that used in the department 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, and we sball enter upon a new era of educational progress in this country before we cross the threshold of the twentieth century.



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 liigh school. The old-fashioned academy, as it is called, is rapidly passing away, giving place in somo 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 lave been very properly termed fitt ng 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 thongh 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 be 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 liave 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 both of girls and boys, whero they enter from the grammar schools after completing a certain fixed conrse in preliminary studies there. The typical high school was represented by a single individual only and he not widely known. Dr. Harris, a man of great experience, understooil the problem of the high school perhaps better than anyone else on the committee, unless it were Dr. Baker, who has had largo experience in the not distant past. Of the other secondary school men one, a very able man, is principal of perbaps the wealthiest boys' boarding school in the United States, but the problem there is very different from that in the orilinary city high school. The other was the head master of the girls' Latin school of the city of loston, a very able man and a man of large experience, yet at the lead 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 appreciato its needs as we do who are trying to solve its difficult problems.

From the stanılpoint 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 really for college. But I could not understand the position of prisidents of colleges and universities who were willing to deduct virtually one-third from the preparatory stuily 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, lint with the exception of ono obstinato member thero seemed to be perfect unanimity in relegating the preparatory Greek to two years instead of three.


ED 93

For the ordinary high school perhaps the next criticism that might be made on this report is that the programme and the work laid out there is too much on the factory plan of piecework—the effort to reduce the whole system of secondary school education to a scientific basis, where we could know beforehand just how much work was to be turned out provided the contract were fulfilled that the student did the work assigned. While that is a comparatively simple matter in an academy or school organized specially for fitting students for college, it is not so easily applied to the ordinary liigh school.

On this subject I had quite an extended correspondence with the chairman of the committee, and part of this has been printed in the Juno number of the School Review. Such oxercises as music, drawing, clocution, orthography, and a great many subjects, some of which necessarily go into all high schools, seemed to be in danger of being left out entirely. The only thing we could get was a resolution in committee, that while no place was made for these in the programme, it was left to local authorities to deal with the matter as they saw fit. In the correspondence just referred to I said of the tentative report sent to the different members of the committee for examination before the final meeting: “I can not agree with the report in recommending that nearly all the subjects taught in any year should be taught during the same number of periods per week. Tablo III provides no place for music, drawing, elocution, spelling, penmanship, etc. Such studies as stenography and manual training are coming into high schools and are coming to stay, and we might as well recognize the fact. Another and a very different class of subjects, such as political economy, psychology, and ethics has long been taught in secondary schools, and I am not prepared to recommend their abolition from the curriculum. Remembering that more than 90 per cent of high school pupils may not go to college, I consider such studies far more valuable than astronomy, meteorology, or physiography.” In reply to that the chairman said: “I see there is another objection in your mind which the committee can not meet, because the conference gives opposite advice. You think there must be in the high school course place for music, drawing, elocution, spelling, penmanship, stenography, manual training, political economy, etc. Now I believe it to be absolutely impossible to make a courso valuable for training to which these various and numerous subjects are admitted.” In answer I said: “Of the subjects mentioned in your letter of the 24th which are not named in the tables of the provisional report, such as music, drawing, etc., I am firmly convinced that some should have a place in every high school course, while others I think should be admissible in certain courses.” Of course thero was no conference provided to consider the question of any of these added subjects. Very naturally, therefore, they find no mention in any of the reports of the conference, with the singlo oxception of political economy, and that I believe the conference reports adversely as a secondary sehool study. I hold that the typical high school, in order to do its best work, must have some of these subjects, and if the school is large enough and its equipment is sufficient it should have them all. We can not leave out elocution nor music and have the work complete. In a high school of this kind our students fortunately come from all classes and families. Some come from the most refined families in the community, and wo must have an atmosphere in which they will feel that their manners will not be corrupted in the high school. Others get their highest ideas of cultnre and refinement from their connection with the high school, and for them it is necessary to introduce as many ethic and ästhetic exercises as we can without impairing the more solid courses of study.

I do not know that it is best to include the other class-political economy, psychol. ogy, and ethics-in the secondary school course. College men generally pronounce against them, but they have never told us what we should do for the 90 per cent of the graduates of the high school who do not go to college, and therefore can not study these subjects under the most favorable conditions. I believe that a properly eqnipped school will find not perhaps that these subjects are best, but that they are

« AnteriorContinuar »