Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

forget too often that civics (using the term in the broad sense) is a laboratory subject. The laboratory is the political, or still more broadly, the social environment of the young person. It is a laboratory in which later he will be one of the engineers. Now, we forget that between the time the boy leaves school and thus passes from his laboratory apprenticeship, to the time when he assumes full rights of citizenship, and thus, for good or ill, the responsibility of a directing engineer, years have elapsed. During those years, the subject-matter given him in his school days dims, if not fades, from his mind. Its details will have vanished utterly, save in so far as contact with the civic environment may have so played upon them as to keep them living. After the age of fourteen, the great mass of children in this country have no systematic instruction. When these boys are old enough to vote, how much do we seriously expect that they will remember of what has been told them during even their last year of school life? The gap is less wide for those who complete a high-school course, but the psychological gap is wide enough between even eighteen and twenty-one to present the same problem to the thoughtful educator.

The inference is that our teaching of government in each locality needs to be centered about those lines of subject-matter along

which the child's environment will continue to Concrete Methods Needed play after he leaves school. The chief govern

mental problems of the day and of the near future, as illustrated by concrete phases of local and national government—these supply material here. With young children, we must begin with the concrete, following a descriptive method, but in the later years of elementary school life, and still more in the high school, we have the opportunity to use this basis of knowledge previously given to elucidate thought and focus it along the critically important lines.

A further inference is that the purpose of the whole teaching will fail and the subject-matter fade from mind during what I have called the psychological gap, unless the pupil's character, as well as intellect, has been reached. Pupils must be given an interest in civic affairs and that ethical or moral impress which awakes and informs a civic spirit. Intellectually, the net result of the teaching need not be, and rarely can be more than the comprehension of certain key principles which underlie the organization of government and its working efficiency. These principles will lie in the immature mind without much abstract formulation. They will be visible, as it were, through a mist of concrete details, but, because they are visible, they will be continually gathering more details to themselves and will thus grow as the child grows. Unless we can so teach, we are mostly beating the air.

Present conditions in the schools are very far from realizing this ideal. The teacher is the key to the situation. We have

not now a body of teachers sufficiently trained, Teacher, the Key

nor even interested, to teach well the subject of

government. It is hardly necessary to retraverse oft-covered ground. We know that the traditions of the present school curriculum are unfavorable to civics. The college entrance examination recognizes the subject so little (rarely at all) that it is difficult to gain a respectable apportionment of time for the subject within a secondary school course. The elementary school situation is essentially the same. Furthermore, the usual connection of the subject with the teaching of American history eats into successful civics teaching at its heart. The excellent and full statement upon this point in the recent report of the American Political Science Association ? makes enlargement upon this point unnecessary. It may be emphasized, however, that there is no point more immediately important, either for the theory or the successful practice of civics teaching, than the clear recognition of what should be its right relation to the teacher of American history. Certain logical reasons are often advanced in behalf of the connection. The practical reason, which, as a rule, becomes the determining one, is that there are but a minute minority of teachers of secondary or elementary schools who are trained in civics; that a much larger number have studied and have prepared to teach American history, and that to satisfy the demand for some show of direct training for citizenship, the history teachers are called upon to give a little time to history's poor relation. The subject, which in the nature

1 Published in the Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Meeting, 1908, pp. 219-257.

of its material, its problems, and its methods, comes closest to civics, is not history but economics, but it is only in the secondary schools, and in few of these, that economics is taught, so that there can rarely be found a teacher trained in this subject who might give a portion of his time to civics.

A second practical reason for the present status of civics is the fact that it is mostly taught by women. Doubtless there is no inherent reason why women teachers of the subject may not be as effective as men, but for some time to come women will be generally much less effiective. A third practical reason is the absence of any adequate helps to teachers in giving instruction in this difficult subject. Civics stands almost alone in the school curriculum in its difficulty. The subject matter is complicated, controverted, and above all it changes. This is one of of the chief reasons why there is no really acceptable text-book. The national government can be fairly well presented in a textbook, and the account can remain accurate for some time. But local government varies widely in different parts of the country, and even in the same state and city its details alter, oftimes decidedly, within a few years. The result is that the chapters dealing with local government in the text-book cannot be concrete and definite, because they are not specially designed for use in any particular locality, and in the few large cities for which the writing of special text-books is commercially practicable, the government is so frequently changing that a text-book becomes quickly out of date on the very points upon which the pupil, as well as the teacher, should be informed. With our American governmental system, this difficulty is inherent. It cannot be remedied unless in preparing text-books we adopt a different viewpoint than the one which is usual. If the teacher is the key to the situation, the placing of the right kind of material in the teacher's hands is the key to the teacher.

Just because of the changeful and current character of our subject, the use of current material is essential. Not only are students interested and educated through following the course of civic affairs through which the teaching may be given a developing and dramatic interest; but only by the use of current information can teachers and pupils alike be kept abreast of the changes

in the structure and in the administration of their local gov

ernment. The problem, however, of getting curCurrent

rent material is a serious one for the average Material

teacher. No other subject in the curriculum Essential

makes the same demand upon the teacher to keep abreast of a very large mass of scattered and evanescent material. Few teachers possess either the training or are allowed the time to attend to the collecting of such material systematically. To meet this need permanently, the teacher of civics must be allowed more leeway by his principal or school superintendent. It is well, however, to consider that the gathering of current material within a given city, and, in a measure, within a single state, can be largely centralized with great saving of labor. The weekly or monthly reviews, of general circulation, do not meet the need. The material must be gathered, and in a considerable degree, it must be adapted for the special purpose of use by the teacher. The newspaper article is, as a rule, too incomplete, is likely to be questionably accurate in details, and to have probable partisan bias. The specialist's article, in a magazine devoted to civic or economic studies, is likely to be too technical and detailed for use by many teachers and by most pupils. Preparation of the material ad hoc is necessary. There is a definite present need and there is a permanent pedagogical place for a current periodical written especially for the purpose of supplying this material. Such a periodical might have a local and a state-wide circulation. There are a few papers now in the field, but, in almost every case, they are neither sufficiently local nor well enough edited to meet the need at all adequately. Newspaper clippings have been used by a number of teachers in an endeavor to deal effectively with this problem of current matter. When carefully managed, with recognition of the usual character of newspaper articles as they are likely to be interpreted by pupils, the use of such clippings is valuable. It supplements, but does not take the place of curcurrent material specially prepared, and consecutively ordered.

The preparation and utilization of such a localized current organ is one advance which the future should hold. A more immediate step, perhaps the next step, towards the improvement of the situation lies in preparation of the right kind of help for the

teacher. Various proposals are in the air, and more or less on paper, looking towards the preparation of text-books or syllabi. The proposition which I would advance is that a next step forward is the preparation of a syllabus for civics teachers rather than a text-book for pupils, and that this syllabus should be worked out along certain lines.

The syllabus should precede the text-book, because until we have civics teachers with more view of their subject, more inter

est and more thought as to the purposes and Syllabus

methods of its teaching, we are running serious Needed

risks in placing in their hands a text-book however good. This, of course, applies particularly to the teaching of municipal and state government, but is not without application to the national.

A syllabus for civics teachers should not be a syllabus of the subject of civics. It should be rather an outline of ways and methods of teaching it, and should present, or rather suggest. subject-matter subordinated to this intent. It should be a booklet for the education of the teacher. Now, the most serious lack in the civic education of the average teacher is admittedly not knowledge of the formal constitutional structure of national and even of local government, but the absence of a fundamental education in the basal principles and critical problems underlying the structure and functioning of government itself. No man or woman without at least an elementary training in economics and some direct study of a few typical political principles and problems can possibly teach civics intelligently.

Recognizing this lack, a syllabus for civics teachers should begin, and should be about half devoted to the presentation of five or six fundamental principles and problems. In dealing with

such a laboratory subject as biology, where, even Contents of

more than in civics, the amount of concrete deSyllabus

tail is overwhelming, teachers have found the fruitful method to be that of types, i. e., to begin by illustrating the fundamental principles, which they need to follow out in a systematic treatment of the subject, through concrete study of a few typical biological forms. We wish the civics teacher to grasp certain key principles, to understand the range of a few

« AnteriorContinuar »