The New Education - A Review of Progressive Educational Movements of the Day (1915)
by Scott Nearing
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

* * * * *

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible; please see detailed list of printing issues at the end of the text, after the Index.

* * * * *





Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania



Copyright, 1915 ROW, PETERSON & COMPANY

* * * * *


During 1910, 1911, and 1912, as a part of a general plan to write a book on education, I reread a great deal of the classical educational literature, and carefully perused most of the current material in magazine and book form. An interest aroused by undergraduate and graduate work in the department of pedagogy had been whetted by the revolutionary activity in every field of educational endeavor. The time seemed ripe for an effective piece of constructive educational writing, yet I could not see my way clear to begin it. Glaring faults there were; remedies appeared ready at hand and easy of application; the will of an aroused public opinion alone seemed to be lacking. By what method could this wheel horse of reform best be harnessed to the car of educational progress?

I was still seeking for an answer to this riddle when the editors of "The Ladies' Home Journal" asked me to consider the preparation of a series of articles. "We have done some sharp destructive work in our criticisms of the schools," they said. "Now we are going to do some constructive writing. We are in search of two things:—first, a constructive article outlining in general a possible scheme for reorganizing the course of study; second, a series of articles describing in a readable way the most successful public school work now being done in the United States. We want you to visit the schools, study them at first-hand, and bring back a report of the best that they have to offer. When your investigation is completed, we shall expect you to write the material up in such a form that each reader, after finishing an article, will exclaim,—'There is something that we must introduce into our schools.'"

That was my opportunity. Instead of writing a book to be read by a thousand persons, I could place a number of constructive articles before two million readers. The invitation was a godsend.

The articles, when completed, formed a natural sequence. First there was the general article (Chapter 3) suggesting the reorganization. Then followed descriptions of the schools in which some such reorganizations had been effected. Prepared with the same point of view, the articles constituted an acceptable series, having a general object and a connecting idea running throughout. What more natural than to write a few words of introduction and conclusion, and put the whole in book form? The style of the articles has been changed somewhat, and considerable material has been added to them; but, in the main, they stand as they were written—simple descriptions of some of the most advanced school work now being done in the United States.

Looked at from any standpoint, this study is a collection of articles rather than a book, yet there is sufficient relation between the articles to give a measure of continuity to the thought which they convey. In no sense is the work pedagogical or theoretical. It is, on the contrary, a record of the impressions made on a traveler by a number of school systems and schools. The articles purported to cover the most progressive work which is being done in the most progressive schools. Although the selection of successful schools was made only after a careful canvass among the leading educators of the country, there are undoubtedly many instances, still at large, which are in every sense as worthy of commendation as any here recorded. This fact does not in any way vitiate the purpose of the original articles, which was to set down a statement of some educational successes in such a way that the lay reader, grasping the significance of these ventures, might see in them immediate possibilities for the schools in his locality.

Behind all of the chapters is the same idea—the idea of educating children—an idea which has taken firm hold of the progressive educators in every section of the community. The schoolmaster is breaking away from the traditions of his craft. He has laid aside the birch, the three "R's," the categorical imperative, and a host of other instruments invented by ancient pedagogical inquisitors, and with an open mind is going up and down the world seeking to reshape the schools in the interests of childhood. The task is Herculean, but the enthusiasm and energy which inspire his labors are sufficient to overcome even those obstacles which are apparently insurmountable.




I. The Critical Spirit and the Schools 11

II. Some Harsh Words from the Inside 12

III. A Word from Huxley and Spencer 15

IV. Some Honest Facts 17

V. Have We Fulfilled the Object of Education? 22


I. Can There Be a New Basis? 24

II. Social Change 25

III. Keeping Up With the Times 26

IV. Education in the Early Home 27

V. City Life and the New Basis for Education 28


I. The New School Machinery 32

II. Rousseau Versus a Class of Forty 33

III. The Fallacious "Average" 34

IV. The Five Ages of Childhood 35

V. Age Distribution in One Grade 36

VI. Shall Child or Subject Matter Come First? 39

VII. The Vicious Practices of One "Good" School 40

VIII. Boys and Girls—The One Object of Educational Activity 42


I. Child Growth—A Primary Factor in Child Life 44

II. Children Need Health First 45

III. Play as a Means to Growth 46

IV. Some Things Which a Child Must Learn 48

V. What Schools Must Provide to Meet Child Needs 51

VI. The Educational Work of the Small Town 52

VII. The Educational Problems of an Industrial Community 55

VIII. Beginning With Child Needs 56


I. The Kindergarten 58

II. Translating the Three R's 59

III. Playing at Mathematics 60

IV. A Model English Lesson 61

V. An Original Fairy Story 65

VI. The Crow and the Scarecrow 67

VII. School and Home 68

VIII. Breaking New Ground 71

IX. The School and the Community 72

X. New Keys for Old Locks 74

XI. School and Shop 76

XII. Half a Chance to Study 79

XIII. Thwarting Satan in the Summer Time 80

XIV. Sending the Whole Child to School 81

XV. Smashing the School Machine 84

XVI. All Hands Around for an Elementary School 86

XVII. From a Blazed Trail to a Paved Highway 90


I. The Responsibility of the High School 92

II. An Experiment in Futures 92

III. The Success Habit 95

IV. The Help-out Spirit 97

V. Joining Hands With the Elementary Schools 98

VI. The Abolition of "Mass Play" 101

VII. Experimental Democracy 103

VIII. Breaching [the] Chinese Wall of High School Classicism 105

IX. An Up-to-Date High School 107

X. From School to Shop and Back Again 109

XI. Fitting the High School Graduate Into Life 110

XII. The High School as a Public Servant 114


I. Lowville and the Neighborhood 116

II. Lowville Academy 117

III. The School's Opportunity 119

IV. Field Work as Education 120

V. Real Domestic Science 122

VI. One Instance of Success 123


I. "Co-operation" and "Progressivism" 125

II. An Educational Creed 127

III. Vitalizing the Kindergarten 129

IV. Regenerating the Grades 132

V. Popularizing High School Education 137

VI. A City University 140

VII. Special Schools for Special Classes 141

VIII. Special Schools for Special Children 144

IX. Playground and Summer Schools 145

X. Mr. Dyer and the Men Who Stood With Him 147


I. An Experiment in Social Education 153

II. An Appeal for Applied Education 156

III. Solving a Local Problem 157

IV. Domestic Science Which Domesticates 159

V. Making Commercial Products in the Grades 161

VI. A Real Interest in School 162

VII. The Mothers' Club 163

VIII. The Disappearance of "Discipline" 165

IX. The Spirit of Oyler 167


I. The Call of the Country 170

II. Making Bricks With Straw 171

III. Making the One-Room Country School Worth While 182

IV. Repainting the Little Red Schoolhouse 187

V. A Fairyland of Rural Education 188

VI. The Task of the Country School 193


I. Miss Belle 195

II. Going to Work Through the Children 196

III. Beginning on Muffins 197

IV. Taking the Boys in Hand 200

V. "Busy Work" as an Asset 201

VI. Marguerite 203

VII. Winning Over the Families 204


I. Fitting Schools to Needs 207

II. Getting the Janitor in Line 208

III. The Department of Agriculture 209

IV. A Short Course for Busy People 212

V. Letting the Boys Do It 214

VI. A Look at the Domestic Science 214

VII. How It Works Out 216

VIII. Theoretical and Practical 217


I. A Dream of Empire 220

II. Finding the Way 222

III. Jem's Father 224

IV. Club Life Militant 228

V. Canning Clubs 234

VI. Recognition Day for Boys and Girls 235

VII. Teaching Grown-Ups to Read 236

VIII. George Washington, Junior 237

IX. A Step Toward Good Health 239

X. Theory and Practice 242

XI. A People Coming to Its Own 249


I. The Standard of Education 251

II. Standardization Was a Failure 252

III. Education as Growth 254

IV. Child Needs and Community Needs 255

V. The Final Test of Education 257




I The Critical Spirit and the Schools

"Everybody is doing it," said a high school principal the other day. "I look through the new books and I find it; it stands out prominently in technical as well as in popular magazines; even the educational papers are taking it up,—everybody seems to be whacking the schools. Yesterday I picked up a funny sheet on which there were four raps at the schools. One in particular that I remember ran something like this,—

"'James,' said the teacher, 'if Thomas has three red apples and William has five yellow apples, how many apples have Thomas and William?'

"James looked despondent.

"'Don't you know?' queried the teacher, 'how much three plus five is?'

"'Oh, yes, ma'am, I know the answer, but the formula, ma'am,—it's the formula that appals me.'

"Probably nine-tenths of the people who read that story enjoyed it hugely," continued the schoolman, "and they enjoyed it because it struck a responsive chord in their memories. At one time or another in their school lives, they, too, bowed in dejection before the tyranny of formulas."

This criticism of school formulas is not confined to popular sources. Prominent authorities in every field which comes in contact with the school are barbarous in their onslaughts. State and city superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, employers,—all have made contribution to the popular clamor. On every hand may be gleaned evidences of an unsatisfied critical spirit.

II Some Harsh Words from the Inside

The Commissioner of Education of New York State writes of the schools,—[1] "A child is worse off in a graded school than in an ungraded one, if the work of a grade is not capable of some specific valuation, and if each added grade does not provide some added power. The first two grades run much to entertainment and amusement. The third and fourth grades repeat the work supposed to have been done in the first two. Too many unimportant and unrelated facts are taught. It is like the wearying orator who reels off stories only to amuse, seems incapable of choosing an incident to enforce a point, and makes no progress toward a logical conclusion.

"When but one-third of the children remain to the end of the elementary course, there is something the matter with the schools. When half of the men who are responsible for the business activities and who are guiding the political life of the country tell us that children from the elementary schools are not able to do definite things required in the world's real affairs, there is something the matter with the schools. When work seeks workers, and young men and women are indifferent to it or do not know how to do it, there is something the matter with the schools.[2]

"There is a waste of time and productivity in all of the grades of the elementary schools."[3] "The things that are weighing down the schools are the multiplicity of studies which are only informatory, the prolongation of branches so as to require many text-books, and the prolixity of treatment and illustration that will accommodate psychological theory and sustain pedagogical methods which have some basis of reason, but which have been most ingeniously overdone."[4]

Former United States Commissioner of Education, E. E. Brown, is responsible for the statement that,—"With all that we have done to secure regular and continuous attendance at school, it is still a mark of distinction when any city is able to keep even one-half of the pupils who are enrolled in its schools until they have passed even the seventh grade."[5]

Here is an illustration, from the pen of a widely known educational expert, of the character of educational facilities in the well-to-do suburb of an Eastern city. After describing two of the newer schools (1911) Prof. Hanus continues,—"The Maple Avenue School is too small for its school population, without a suitable office for the principal or a common room for the teachers, and, of course, very inadequately equipped for the work it ought to do; it ought, therefore, to be remodeled and added to without delay. The Chestnut Street School is old, gloomy, crowded, badly ventilated, and badly heated, has steep and narrow stairways, and it would be dangerous in case of fire. There are fire escapes, to be sure, but the access to some of these, though apparently easy in a fire drill, might be seriously inadequate and dangerous in case of haste or panic due to a real fire. In such a building sustained good work by teachers and pupils is very difficult....

"The High School is miserably housed. It is dingy, badly lighted and badly ventilated. These defects constitute a serious menace to the physical welfare of pupils and teachers and, of course, seriously interfere with good work. It is crowded. Intercommunication is devious and inconvenient. The building is quite unfit for high school uses. Some of the school furniture is very poor; the physical and chemical classrooms and laboratories are very unsatisfactory, and its biological laboratory and equipment scarcely less so. The assembly room is too small, badly arranged, and badly furnished. There are no toilet-rooms for the teachers, and there is no common room. There is no satisfactory or adequate lunch-room. The library is in crowded quarters; the principal's office space is altogether too small, and his private office almost derisively so."[6]

Overwork in the school is said to be alarmingly prevalent. "It is generally recognized by physicians and educators to-day that many children in the schools are being seriously injured through nervous overstrain. Throughout the world there is a developing conviction that one of the most important duties of society is to determine how education may be carried on without depriving children of their health. It is probable that we are not requiring too much work of our pupils, but they are not accomplishing their tasks economically in respect to the expenditure of nervous energy. Some experiments made at home and abroad seem to indicate that children could accomplish as much intellectually, with far less dissipation of nervous energy, if they were in the schoolroom about one-half the time which they now spend there. German educators and physicians are convinced that a fundamental reform in this respect is needed. In fact, among school children we are learning the same lesson as among factory employees, viz., that high pressure and long hours are not economy but waste of time."[7]

The school has been rendered monotonous. "We have worked for system till the public schools have become machines. It has been insistently proclaimed that all children must do things the same way for so long a time, that many of us have actually come to believe it. Children unborn are predestined to work after the same fashion that their grandparents did."[8]

III A Word from Huxley and Spencer

These are typical of a host of similar criticisms of the schools which leading educators, men working within the school system, are directing against it. Out of the fullness of their experience they spread the conviction that the school often fails to prepare for life, that it frequently distorts more effectively than it builds. The thought is not new. Thomas Huxley asked, years ago, whether education should not be definitely related to life. He wrote,—"If there were no such things as industrial pursuits, a system of education which does nothing for the faculties of observation, which trains neither the eye nor the hand, and is compatible with utter ignorance of the commonest natural truths, might still be reasonably regarded as strangely imperfect. And when we consider that the instruction and training which are lacking are exactly those which are of most importance for the great mass of our population, the fault becomes almost a crime, the more so in that there is no practical difficulty in making good these defects."[9]

Approaching the matter from another side, Tyler puts a pertinent question in his "Growth and Education,—" "In the grammar grade is learning and mental discipline of chief importance to the girl, or is care of the body and physical exercise absolutely essential at this period? No one seems to know, and very few care. What would nature say?"[10]

Herbert Spencer answers Tyler's question in spirited fashion. "While many years are spent by a boy in gaining knowledge, of which the chief value is that it constitutes 'the education of a gentleman;' and while many years are spent by a girl in those decorative acquirements which fit her for evening parties; not an hour is spent by either of them in preparation for that gravest of all responsibilities—the management of a family."[11] "For shoe-making or house-building, for the management of a ship or a locomotive-engine, a long apprenticeship is needful. It is, then, that the unfolding of a human being in body and mind, may we superintend and regulate it with no preparation whatever?"[12]

One fact is self-evident,—the existence of a body of criticism and hostility is prima facia evidence of weakness on the part of the institution criticised, particularly when the criticism comes strong and sharp from school-men themselves. The extent and severity of school criticism certainly bespeaks the careful consideration of those most interested in maintaining the efficiency of the school system.

IV Some Honest Facts

Let us face the facts honestly. If you include country schools, and they must be included in any discussion of American Education, the school mortality,—i. e., the children who drop out of school between the first and eighth years—is appalling. We may quarrel over percentages, but the dropping out is there.

The United States Commissioner of Education writes,—[13] "Of twenty-five million children of school age (5 to 18), less than twenty million are enrolled in schools of all kinds and grades, public and private; and the average daily attendance does not exceed fourteen million, for an average school term of less than 8 months of 20 days each. The average daily attendance of those enrolled in the public schools is only 113 days in the year, less than 5-3/4 months. The average attendance of the entire school population is only 80-1/2 days, or 4 months of 20 days each. Assuming that this rate of attendance shall continue through the 13 school years (5 to 18), the average amount of schooling received by each child of the school population will be 1,046 days, or a little more than 5 years of 10 school months. This bureau has no reliable statistics on the subject, but it is quite probable that less than half the children of the country finish successfully more than the first 6 grades; only about one-fourth of the children ever enter high school; and less than 8 in every 100 do the full 4 years of high school work. Fewer than 5 in 100 receive any education above the high school."

Taking this dropping out into consideration, it is probable that the majority of children who enter American schools receive no more education than will enable them to read clumsily, to write badly, to spell wretchedly, and to do the simplest mathematical problems (addition, subtraction, etc.) with difficulty. In any real sense of the word, they are neither educated nor cultured.

Judge Draper, Superintendent of Public Instruction in New York State, writes,—[14] "We cannot exculpate the schools. They are as wasteful of child life as are the homes. From the bottom to the top of the American educational system we take little account of the time of the child.... We have eight or nine elementary grades for work which would be done in six if we were working mainly for productivity and power. We have shaped our secondary schools so that they confuse the thinking of youth and break the equilibrium between education and vocations, and people and industries.... In the graded elementary schools of the State of New York, less than half of the children remain to the end of the course. They do not start early enough. They do not attend regularly enough. The course is too full of mere pedagogical method, exploitation and illustration, if not of kinds and classes of work. The terms are too short and the vacations too long.... More than half of the children drop out by the time they are fourteen or fifteen, the limits of the compulsory attendance age, because the work of the schools is behind the age of the pupils, and we do not teach them the things which lead them and their parents to think it will be worth their while to remain."

Observe that Judge Draper writes of the graded schools only. Could you conceive of a more stinging rebuke to an institution from a man who is making it his business to know its innermost workings?

These statements refer, not to the small percentage of children who go to high school, but to that great mass of children who leave the school at, or before, fourteen years of age. If you do not believe them, go among working children and find out what their intellectual qualifications really are.

One fact must be clearly borne in mind,—the school system is a social institution. In the schools are the people's children. Public taxes provide the funds for public education. Perhaps no great institution is more generally a part of community interest and experience than the public school system.

The most surprising thing about the school figures is the overwhelming proportion of students in the elementary grades—17,050,441 of the 18,207,803. If you draw three lines, the first representing the number of children in the elementary schools, the second showing the number in the high school, and the third the number of students in colleges, professional and normal schools, the contrast is astonishing.

It is perfectly evident, therefore, that the real work of education must be done in the elementary grades. The high schools with a million students, and the universities, colleges, professional and normal schools with three hundred thousand more, constitute an increasingly important factor in education; at the same time, for every seven students in these higher schools, there are ninety-three children in the elementary grades. The proportion is so unexpected that it staggers us—more than nine-tenths of the children who attend school in the United States are in the elementary grades! Can this be the school system of which our forefathers dreamed when they established a universal, free education nearly a hundred years ago? Did they foresee that such an overwhelming proportion of American children would never have an opportunity to secure more than the rudiments of an education?

Be that as it may, the facts glower menacingly at us from city, town and countryside,—the overcrowded elementary grades and the higher schools with but a scant proportion of the students. So, if we wish to educate the great mass of American children, we must go to the primary grades to do it.

There are, in the public schools, 533,606 teachers, four-fifths of whom are women. These teachers are at work in 267,153 school buildings having a total value of $1,221,695,730. Each year some four hundred and fifty million dollars are devoted to maintaining and adding to this educational machine.

The school system is the greatest saving fund which the American people possess. The total value of school property is greater than the entire fortune of the richest American. Each year the people spend upon their schools a sum sufficient to construct a Panama Canal or a transcontinental railway system. Thus the public school is the greatest public investment in the United States.

It is one thing to invest, and quite a different matter to be assured a fair return on the investment. Nevertheless, the individual investor believes in his right to a fair return. From their public investments, the people, in fairness, can demand no more; in justice to themselves, they may accept no less. Are they receiving a fair return? The people of the United States have invested nearly a billion dollars in the public school system; each year they contribute nearly half a billion dollars more toward the same end. Are they getting what they pay for?

Turn to another section of the Report of the Commissioner of Education, and note how, in mild alarm, he protests against teachers' salaries so low "that it is clearly impossible to hire the services of men and women of good native ability and sufficient scholarship, training and experience to enable them to do satisfactory work;" against the schoolhouses, which are "cheap, insanitary, uncomfortable and unattractive;" against "thousands of schools" in which "one teacher teaches from twenty to thirty classes a day;" against "courses of study ill-adapted to the interest of country children or the needs of country life;" against "a small enrollment of the total children of school age," and a school attendance so low that "the average of the entire school population is only 80-1/2 days per year."[15]

The tone of these statements is certainly not reassuring. Perhaps it is high time that the citizens inquired into the status of their educational securities—their public school system.

V Have We Fulfilled the Object of Education?

The object of education is complete living. A perfect educational system would prepare those participating in it to live every phase of their lives, and to derive from life all possible benefit. Any educational system which enables men to live completely is therefore fulfilling its function. On the other hand, an educational system which does not prepare for life is not meeting the necessary requirements.

Charles Dickens, in his characteristic way, thus describes in "Hard Times" a public school class under the title "Murdering the Innocents:"

"'In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts.'

"The speaker and the school master swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim. So Mr. M'Choakumchild (the school master) began in his best manner. He went to work on this preparatory lesson, not unlike Morgiana in the Forty Thieves—looking into all the vessels ranged before him, one after another, to see what they contained. Say, good Mr. M'Choakumchild: when from thy store thou shalt fill each jar brim full by and by, dost thou think thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within, or sometimes only maim him and distort him!"

Is the picture overdrawn? Are there grades in our large American cities where conditions similar to those just portrayed may be found? Every parent who has a child in the public schools, every taxpayer who contributes to school support, has a right to a direct, impartial and honest answer to that question.

Among educators as well as among members of the general public a spirit of educational unrest has developed. Everywhere there is an ill-defined feeling of dissatisfaction with the work of the schools; everywhere an earnest desire to see the schools do more effectively the school work which is regarded, on every hand, as imperative.

The facts of school failure are more generally known than the facts of school success; yet there are successful schools. Indeed, some of the school systems of the United States are doing remarkably effective work. Emphasis has been lavished on the failure side of the educational problem, until public opinion is fairly alive to the necessity of some action. The time is, therefore, ripe for a positive statement of educational policy. Many schools have succeeded. Let us read the story of the good work. Efficient educational systems are in operation. Let us model the less successful experiments on those more successful ones.

Circumstances force people to live in one place, to see one set of surroundings and meet one kind of folks, until they are led to believe, almost inevitably, that their kind is the kind. Schools are the victims of just such provincialism. Although the school superintendents and principals, and some of the school teachers meet their co-workers from other cities, the people whose children attend the schools almost never have an opportunity to learn intelligently what other schools are doing. This city develops one educational idea, and that city develops another idea. Although both ideas may deserve widespread consideration, and perhaps universal adoption, they will fail to measure up to the full stature of their value unless the people in all communities learn about them intelligently.


[Footnote 1: "American Education," Andrew S. Draper, Boston; Houghton Mifflin Co., 1909, pp. 281-83.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 275.]

[Footnote 3: Ibid., p. 281.]

[Footnote 4: Idem.]

[Footnote 5: The Responsibility of the School, E. E. Brown, U. S. Commissioner of Education. A pamphlet privately printed in Philadelphia, 1908, containing a series of addresses.]

[Footnote 6: Report on the Programme of Studies in the Public Schools of Montclair, N. J., Paul H. Hanus, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 7 and 8.]

[Footnote 7: Report on National Vitality, Irving Fisher, Washington Government Print., 1909, pp. 76-77.]

[Footnote 8: The Problem of Individualizing Instruction, W. F. Andrew, Education, Vol. 26, p. 135 (1905).]

[Footnote 9: Evolution and Ethics, T. H. Huxley, New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1902, p. 220.]

[Footnote 10: Growth and Education, J. M. Tyler, Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, 1907, p. 21.]

[Footnote 11: Education, H. Spencer, New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1861, p. 162.]

[Footnote 12: Supra, p. 63.]

[Footnote 13: Annual Report, U. S. Commissioner of Education, 1911; Washington Government Print., 1912, Vol. I, pp. 12-13.]

[Footnote 14: Conserving Childhood, Andrew S. Draper; The Child Workers of the Nation, Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Conference on Child Labor, Chicago, Ill., Jan. 21-23, 1909; New York, 1909, pp. 9-10.]

[Footnote 15: Report U. S. Commissioner of Education, 1911, Vol. I, p. 12.]



I Can There Be a New Basis?

Can there be a new basis for education? Does the foundation upon which education rests really change? Is the educational system of one age necessarily unfitted to provide for the educational needs of the next? These, and a multitude of the similar questions which people interested in educational progress are asking themselves, arise out of the process of transition that is seemingly one of the fundamental propositions of the universe. All things change, and are changing, from the smallest cell to the most highly organized creature, the noblest mountain range, and the vastest sun in the heavens. To-day differs from yesterday as to-morrow must differ from to-day. All things are becoming.

Test this statement with the observed facts of life. Here is a garden, well-planted and watered. The soil is loamy and black. On all its surface there is nothing, save a clod here and there, to relieve the warm, moist regularity. Come to-morrow and the level surface is broken by tiny green shoots which have appeared at intervals, thrusting through the top crust. Next week the black earth is striped with rows of green. Onions, beets, lettuce, and peas are coming up. Go back to the hills which you climbed in boyhood, ascend their chasmed sides and note how even they have changed. Each year some part of them has disappeared into the rapid torrent. Had you been there in April, you might have seen particles of your beloved hills in every water-course, hurrying toward the lowlands and the sea. While you watch them, the clouds change in the sky, the sunset wanes, and the forest covers the bared hills. Nature, fickle mistress of our destinies, spreads a never-ending panorama before our eyes that we may recognize the one great law of her being,—the law of progression.

II Social Change

How well does this principle of change apply to the organization of society! The absolute monarchy of one age yields to the semi-democracy of the next. Yesterday the church itself traded in men's bodies,—holding slaves, and accepting, without question, the proceeds of slavery. To-day machines replace men in a thousand industries. To-morrow slavery is called into question, until in the dim-glowering nineteenth century, men will struggle and die by tens of thousands;—on the one side, those who believe that the man should be the slave; on the other, those who hold that the slavery of the machine is alone necessary and just. Thus is every social institution altered from age to age. Thus is effected that transformation which men have chosen to call progress.

How profoundly does this truth apply to the raw material of education,—the children who enroll in the schools! Under your very eyes they lose their childish ways, feel their steps along the precipice of adolescence, enter the wonderland of imagery and idealism, and pass on into the maturity of life. How vain is our hope that the child may remain a child; how worthless our prayer that adult life shall never lay her heavy burden of cares and responsibilities upon his beloved shoulders. Even while you raise your hands in supplication, the child has passed from your life forever, leaving naught save a man to confront you.

From these mighty scythe strokes which change sweeps across the meadows of time, naught is exempt. The petals fall from the fairest flower; the bluest sky becomes overcast; the greatest feats of history are surpassed; and the social machinery, adequate for the needs of one age, sinks into the insignificance of desuetude in the age which follows. Thus does the inevitable come to pass. Thus does the social institution, wrought through centuries of turmoil and anguish, become useless in the newer civilization which is arising on every hand. The educational system in its inception was well founded, but the changes of time invalidate the original idea. Yesterday the school fulfilled the needs of men. To-day it fails to meet a situation which reshapes itself with each rising and each setting of the sun.

Each epoch must have its institutions. With the work of the past as a background, the present must constantly reshape the institutions which the past has bequeathed to it. These modified institutions, handed on in turn by the present, must again be rebuilt to meet the needs of the future; and so on through each succeeding age.

III Keeping Up with the Times

At times the march of progress is so rapid that even the most advanced grow breathless with attempts to keep abreast of the vanguard. Again, marking time for ages, progressive movements seem wholly dead, and the path to the future is overgrown with tradition, and blocked by oblivion and decay. The rapid advances of the nineteenth century, challenging the quickest to keep pace, forced upon many institutions surroundings wholly foreign to their bent and scope.

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of the educational system, which had its rise in an age of individualized industry and governmental non-interference, and now faces a newly inaugurated socialization of industry and an impromptu system of government control.

The new basis of education lies in the changes which the nineteenth century wrought in industry, transforming village life into city dwelling, and substituting for the skilled mechanic, using a tool, the machine, employing the unskilled worker. The men of the eighteenth century made political institutions, and were content with democracy; the men of the nineteenth century, accepting government as it stood, built up a new industry. The society which we in the twentieth century must erect upon the political and industrial triumphs of our forefathers, can never be successful unless it recognizes the fundamental character of the issues which nineteenth century industry and eighteenth century politics have brought into twentieth century life.

Is it too much to ask that the school stand foremost in this recognition of change, when it is in the school that the ideas of the new generation are moulded, tempered, and burnished? May we not expect that in its lessons to the young our educational system shall speak the language of the twentieth century rather than that of the eighteenth?

IV Education in the Early Home

Before the modern system of industry had its inception, while the old hand trades still held sway, at a time when the household was the center of work and pleasure, when the family made its butter, cheese, oatmeal, ale, clothing, tools, and utensils,—in such an atmosphere of domestic industry, Froebel wrote his famous "Education of Man." Note this description of the way in which a father may educate his son. "The son accompanies his father everywhere, to the field and to the garden, to the shop and to the counting house, to the forest and to the meadow; in the care of domestic animals and in the making of small articles of household furniture; in the splitting, sawing, and piling up of wood; in all the work his father's trade or calling involves."[17] In another passage he calls upon parents, "more particularly fathers (for to their special care and guidance the child ripening into boyhood is confided)," to contemplate "their parental duties in child guidance;"[18] and he prefaces this exhortation with a long list of illustrations, suggesting the methods which may be pursued by the farm laborer, the goose-herd, the gardener, the forester, the blacksmith, and other tradesmen and craftsmen, in the education of their sons. Any such man, Froebel points out, may take his child at the age of two or three and teach him some of the simple rules of his trade. How different is the position of the son of a workman in a modern American city! An American city dweller reading Froebel's discussion would not conceive of it as applying in any sense to him, or to his life.

V City Life and the New Basis for Education

The very thought of city life precludes the possibility of home work. The narrow house, the tenement, the great shop or factory, on the one hand, prevent the mechanic from carrying on his trade near his family; and on the other hand, make it impossible for the father whose work lies far from his home to give his boys the "special care and guidance" about which Froebel writes.

The system of industry which was established in England during the closing decades of the eighteenth century, and which secured a foothold in both Germany and the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century, has revolutionized the basis of our lives. The workshop has been transplanted from the home to the factory; both men and women leave their homes for ten, eleven, or even twelve hours a day to carry on their industrial activities; great centers of population collect about the centers of industry; the farm, the flock of geese, the garden, the forest, and the blacksmith shop disappear; food, clothing, and other necessaries of life—formerly the product of home industry—are produced in great factories; and the city home, stripped of its industrial functions, restricted in scope, robbed of its adults, presents little opportunity for the education of the city child. Standing on the threshold of his meager dwelling, this child of six looks forward to a life which must be based on the instruction provided in a public school system.

The country boy still has his ten-acre lot, where he may run and play. There are flowers and freckles in the spring; kite-flying, fishing, hunting, and trapping in summer and autumn. The general farm is a storehouse of useful information in rudimentary form. From day to day and from year to year the country boy may learn and enjoy.

The city boy is differently situated. His playground is the street, where he plays under the wheels of wagons, automobiles, and trolley cars; or else he plays in a public playground in company with hundreds, or even thousands, of other children. Even then his activities are restricted by city ordinances, monitors, policemen, and other exponents of law and order.

The city home, whether tenement or single house, cannot begin to supply the opportunities for growth and development which were furnished by life in the open. Where else, then, does the responsibility for such growth and development rest than upon the school? On the farm the boy learned his trade, as Froebel suggests, at the hands of his father. The father of the city boy spends his working hours in a mill, or in an office, where boys under fourteen or sixteen are forbidden by law to go. The city home is unavoidably deprived of the chance to provide adequate recreation or adequate vocational training for its children. The burden in both cases shifts to the school.

A hundred years ago practically all industries were carried on in connection with the home. The weaver, the carpenter, the hatter, the cobbler, the miller, lived and worked on the same premises. Then steam was applied to industry; the machine replaced the man; semi-skilled and unskilled labor replaced skilled labor; great numbers of men and women, and even of children, crowded together in factories to spin thread, make bolts and washers, weave ribbon, bake bread, manufacture machinery, or do some one of the many hundreds of things now done in factories. The change from home industry to factory industry is well named the Industrial Revolution. It completely overturned the established and accepted means of making a living.

The industrial upheaval has changed every phase of modern life. Industry itself has replaced apprenticeship by a degree of specialization undreamed of in primitive life. From the superintendent to the office boy, from the boss roller to the yard laborer, from the chief clerk to the stenographer, the work of men and women is monotonous and specialized. The city has grown up as a logical product of an industrial system which centers thousands, or even tens of thousands, of workmen in one place of employment. The city home differs fundamentally from the country home as the city differs from the country.

The changes now going on in farming are no less significant than those which the nineteenth century witnessed in manufacturing. Science has been applied to agriculture. Old methods are brought into question. Intensive study and specialization are widespread. The time has passed when a farmer can afford to neglect the agricultural bulletins or papers. To be successful, he must be a trained specialist in his line, and the school and college are called upon to provide the training.

No individual is responsible for these changes. They have come as the logical product of a long series of discoveries and inventions. New methods, built upon the ideas and methods of the past, have created a new civilization.

The civilized world, reorganized and reconstituted, rebuilt in all of its economic phases, demands a new teaching which shall relate men and women to the changed conditions of life. This is the new basis for education,—this the new foundation upon which must be erected a superstructure of educational opportunity for succeeding generations. It remains for education to recognize the change and to remodel the institutions of education in such a way that they shall meet the new needs of the new life.


[Footnote 16: Portions of this chapter originally appeared in The Journal of Education.]

[Footnote 17: "The Education of Man," F. Froebel. Translated by W. N. Halliman, New York; D. Appleton & Co. 1909, p. 103.]

[Footnote 18: Ibid., p. 187.]



I The New School Machinery

The influence which the industrial changes of the past hundred years has had on education is considerable. With the transformation of the home workshop into the factory has come the transition from rural and village life to life in great industrial cities and towns. The introduction of specialized machinery has placed upon education the burden of vocational training. More important still, it has so augmented the size of the educational problem that an intricate system of school machinery has been devised to keep the whole in order.

The rural, or village, school was a one or two-room affair, housing a handful of pupils. Aside from matters of discipline, the administration of the school was scarcely a problem. General superintendents, associate superintendents, compulsory attendance laws, card index systems, and purchasing departments were unknown. The school was a simple, personal business conducted by the teacher in very much the same way that the corner grocer conducted his store—on faith and memory.

The growth of cities and towns necessitated the introduction of elaborate school machinery. In place of a score of pupils, thousands, tens, and even hundreds of thousands were placed under the same general authority. City life made some form of administrative machinery inevitable.

The increasing size of the school system,—and in new, growing cities the school system increases with a rapidity equal to the rate of growth of the population,—leads to increase in class size. A school of twenty pupils is still common in rural districts. In the elementary grades of American city schools, investigators find fifty, sixty, and in some extreme cases, seventy pupils under the charge of one teacher, while the average number, per teacher, is about forty.

Recrimination is idle. The obvious fact remains that the rate of growth in school population is greater than the rate of growth in the school plant. The schools in many cities have not caught up with their educational problem. The result is a multiplication of administrative problems, not the least of which is the question of class size.

II Rousseau Versus a Class of Forty

A toilsome journey it is from the education of an individual child by an individual teacher (Rousseau's Emile) to the education of forty children by one teacher (the normal class in American elementary city schools). Rousseau pictured an ideal; we face a reality—complex, expanding, at times almost menacing.

The difference between Rousseau's ideal and the modern actuality is more serious than it appears superficially. Rousseau's idea permitted the teacher to treat the child as an individuality, studying the traits and peculiarities of the pupil, building up where weakness appeared, and directing freakish notions and ideas into conventional channels. The modern city school with one teacher and forty pupils places before the teacher a constant temptation, which at times reaches the proportions of an overmastering necessity, to treat the group of children as if each child were like all the rest. A teacher who can individualize forty children, understand the peculiarities of each child, and teach in a way that will enable each of the children to benefit fully by her instruction, is indeed a master, perhaps it would be fairer to say a super-master in pedagogy. A class of forty is almost inevitably taught as a group.

There is another feature about the large school system which is even more disastrous to the welfare of the individual child. Rousseau studied the individual to be educated, and then prescribed the course of study. The city teacher, no matter how intimately she may be acquainted with the needs of her children, has little or no say in deciding upon the subjects which she is to teach her class. Such matters are for the most part determined by a group of officials—principals, superintendents, and boards of education,—all of whom are engaged primarily in administrative work, and some of whom have never taught at all, nor entered a psychological laboratory, nor engaged in any other occupation that would give first-hand, practical, or theoretical knowledge of the problems encountered in determining a course of study.

A course of study must be devised, however, even though some of the responsible parties have no first-hand knowledge of the points at issue. The method by which it is devised is of peculiar importance to this discussion. The administrative officials, having in mind an average child, prepare a course of study which will meet that average child's needs. Theoretically, the plan is admirable. It suffers from one practical defect,—there is no such thing as an average child.

III The Fallacious "Average"

Averages are peculiarly tempting to Americans. They supply the same deeply-felt want in statistics that headlines do in newspapers. They tell the story at a glance. In this peculiar case the story is necessarily false.

An average may be taken only of like things. It is possible to average the figures 3, 4, and 8 by adding them together and dividing by 3. The average is 5. Such a process is mathematically correct, because all of the units comprising the 3, 4, and 8 are exactly alike. One of the premises of mathematics is that all units are alike, hence they may be averaged.

Unlike mathematical units, all children are different. They differ in physical, in mental, and in spiritual qualities. Their hair is different in color and in texture. Their feet and hands vary in size. Some children are apt at mathematics, others at drawing, and still others at both subjects. Some children have a strong sense of moral obligation,—an active conscience,—others have little or no moral stamina. No two children in a family are alike, and no two children in a school-room are alike. After an elaborate computation of hereditary possibilities, biologists announce that the chance of any two human creatures being exactly alike is one in five septillions. In simple English, it is quite remote.

IV The Five Ages of Childhood

A very ingenious statement of the case is made by Dr. Bird T. Baldwin. Children, says Dr. Baldwin, have five ages,—

1. A chronological age, 2. A physical age, 3. A mental age, 4. A moral age, 5. A school age.

Two children, born on the same day, have the same age in years. One is bound to grow faster than the other in some physical respect. Therefore the two children have different physical ages, or rates of development. In the same way they have differing mental and moral ages. The school age, a resultant of the first three, is a record of progress in school. Even when children are born on the same day, the chances that they will grow physically, mentally, and morally at exactly the same rate, and will make exactly the same progress in school, are remote indeed. School children are, therefore, inevitably different.

V Age Distribution in One Grade

A very effective illustration of the differences in chronological age, in school age, and in the rate of progress in school is furnished in the 1911 report of the superintendent of schools for Springfield, Mass. There are in this report a series of figures dealing with the ages, and time in school, of fifth-grade pupils in Springfield. The first table shows the number of years in school and the age of all the fifth-grade pupils.


Age and Time in School, Fifth Grade, Springfield, December, 1911

Years in Ages School 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Total - - - 1 .. .. .. .. .. .. 1 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1 2 .. .. .. 2 1 1 1 2 2 .. .. .. .. .. 9 3 .. .. .. 6 38 25 9 .. 1 1 .. .. .. .. 80 4 .. .. .. .. 162 200 63 12 10 3 .. .. .. .. 450 - - - 5 .. .. .. .. 17 178 131 47 14 2 .. .. .. .. 389 - - - 6 .. .. .. .. 1 11 120 60 29 3 .. .. .. .. 224 7 .. .. .. .. .. 1 3 46 29 8 1 .. 1 .. 88 8 .. .. .. .. .. .. 1 4 17 4 1 .. .. .. 28 9 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 4 1 .. .. .. 5 10 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1 .. .. .. .. 1 11 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 12 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 13 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Total .. .. .. 8 219 416 329 171 102 26 3 .. 1 .. 1,275 - - -

Theoretically, children in Springfield enter the school at six, and spend one year in each grade. If all of the children in the Springfield schools had lived up to this theory, there would be 1,275 eleven years of age, and 1,275 in the fifth grade. A glance at the table shows that only 131, or about 10 per cent of the children, are both eleven years of age and five years in the school. Among the 1,275 fifth-grade children, 389, or 31 per cent, have been in school five years, and 329, or 26 per cent, are eleven years of age.

The superintendent follows this general table with other tables giving a more detailed analysis of over and under age pupils, and of rate of progress in school.


Age and Progress Groups of Fifth-Grade Pupils in Springfield, December, 1911

Young Normal Over-age Total Per Per Per Per No. Cent No. Cent No. Cent No. Cent

Rapid 435 34 74 6 31 2 540 42 Normal 195 16 131 10 63 5 389 31 Slow 13 1 124 10 209 16 346 27 - - - - - Total 643 51 329 26 303 23 1,275 100

The inferences from Table 2 are very clear. Of the 1,275 fifth-grade pupils, 435, or 34 per cent, are not only under-age for the grade, but they have progressed at more than normal speed. They are the exceptionally capable pupils of the grade. At the other extreme we find 209 children, or 16 per cent of all in the grade, who need special attention because they are both over-age and slow. Feeble-minded children rarely advance beyond the second grade; hence we know that none of these are feeble-minded, but among their number will be found many who will be little profited by the ordinary curriculum; 110 of them are already 12 years old, and 75 are 13 years old. A majority of them will, in all probability, drop out of school as soon as they reach the age of 14, unless prior to that time some new element of interest is introduced that will make a strong appeal; for example, some activity toward a vocation.

A further study of the over-age column shows that 31 pupils, 2 per cent, are over-age, but they have reached their present position in less than usual time; while 63 of them, also over-age, have required the full five years to reach their present grade position. Unless by limiting the required work of these over-age pupils to the essentials, or by some administrative arrangement involving special grouping with relatively small numbers in a class, so that we can in the one case maintain, and in the other case bring about, accelerated progress, there is little likelihood that any large number will remain in school to complete the ninth grade, much less take a high school course; for four years hence their ages will range from 16 to 18 years. The 124 pupils who are of normal age, but slow, are also subjects for special attention, for they have repeated from one to three grades, or have failed to secure from two to six half-yearly promotions, and are in danger of acquiring the fatal habit of failure, if they have not already acquired it.

The superintendent then goes on to emphasize the imperative duty resting on each principal, to examine and to understand the varying capacities of individual children in his school. Without such an understanding real educational progress cannot be made.

This study is most illuminating. Nothing could more effectually show variation in individual children than the difference in one city grade of the most obvious of characteristics—age and progress in school. The infinitely greater variations in the subtle characteristics that distinguish children can be more readily guessed at than measured. Under these circumstances, the attempt to prepare studies for an "average child" is manifestly futile. The course may be organized, but it will hardly meet the needs of large numbers of the individual children who take it.

VI Shall Child or Subject Matter Come First?

The old education presupposed an average child, and then prepared a course of study which would fit his needs. The new education recognizes the absurdity of averaging unlike quantities, and accepts the ultimate truth that each child is an individual, differing in needs, capacity, outlook, energy, and enthusiasm from every other child. An arithmetic average can be struck, but when it is applied to children it is a hypothetical and not a real quantity. There is not, and never will be, an average child; hence, a school system planned to meet the needs of the average child fits the needs of no child at all.

Mathematics may be taught to the average child. So may history and geography. While subject matter comes first in the minds of educators, a course of study designed to meet average conditions is a possibility. The moment, however, that the schools cease to teach subjects and begin to teach boys and girls, such a proceeding is out of the question.

The temptation in a complex school system, where children are grouped by hundreds and thousands, to allow the detail of administration to overtop the functions of education is often irresistible. The teacher with forty pupils learns to look upon her pupils as units. The superintendent and principals, seeking ardently for an overburdened commercial ideal named "efficiency," sacrifice everything else to the perfection of the mechanism. Among the smooth clicking cogs, child individuality has only the barest chance for survival.

VII The Vicious Practices of One "Good" School

There are school systems in which organization has overgrown child welfare, in which pedagogy has usurped the place of teaching. In such systems the teacher teaches the prescribed course of study, whether or no. The officers of administration, aiming at some mechanical ideal, shape the schools to meet the requirements of system.

The proneness of some teachers and school administrators alike to overemphasize mechanics, and to underemphasize the welfare of individual children is well illustrated in a recent statement by Dr. W. E. Chancellor, who, in writing of a first-hand investigation made in a city in the Northeast, describes a condition which he says "I know by fairly authoritative reports does exist in a considerable number of cities and towns—not merely in a school here and there, but generally and characteristically.

"In the city to which I definitely refer," Dr. Chancellor continues, "I found that the intermediate and grammar grade teachers had systematically, deliberately, and successfully sacrificed hundreds of boys and girls upon the altar of examinations to the fetish of good schools. They have been so anxious to have good schools that they have kept an average of 20 per cent of their pupils one grade lower than they belong. In some schools the average runs to above 35 per cent.

"Some teachers and some school superintendents cannot see that the school is simply a machine for developing boys and girls; cannot see that the machine in itself is worthless save as it contributes to human welfare. A school may be so good as actually to damage the souls and bodies of human beings. It damages their souls when the machine operators, seeking 75 per cent in every subject, keep boys and girls in grammar schools until they average sixteen years of age."[19] Dr. Chancellor continues with a stinging arraignment of school officials who sacrifice children to systems.

The article strikes an answering chord in the experiences of many men and women. A friend came recently to our bungalow, and, with a troubled face, spoke of his daughter's ill-health.

"She is not sick," he said, "but just ailing. These first May days have taken her appetite. She needs the country air."

The daughter was a dear little girl of twelve—any one might have envied the father of his treasure—and we offered to keep her with us for a month in the country, and to go over her school work with her every day. The father accepted our proposal on the spot, but two days later he came back to say that he could not make the arrangements.

"It cannot be done," he explained, "because the school will not let her off. I told the principal about my daughter's health and showed him the advantage of a month in the country with her school work carefully supervised. Her school is rather crowded, and as I want her to go on with her class in the autumn, I asked him if he could arrange to keep her place for her. In reply he said,—

"'I cannot do as you wish. Such cases as yours interfere seriously with the working of the school.'"

VIII Boys and Girls—The One Object of Educational Activity

Perhaps our language was not as temperate as it should have been, but we told that father something which we would fain repeat until every educator and every parent in the United States has heard it and written it on the tables of his heart,—


Why have we established a billion-dollar school system in the United States? Is it to pay teachers' salaries, to build new school houses, and to print text-books by the million? Hardly. These things are incidents of school business, but they are no more reason for the school's existence than fertilizer and seed are reasons for making a garden. Gardens are cultivated in order to secure plants and flowers; the school organization of which Americans so often boast exists to educate children.

"Of course," you exclaim, "we knew that before." Did you? Then why was my friend forced to choose between the wreck of his daughter's health and the disarrangement of a bit of school machinery? Why is Dr. Chancellor able to describe a situation existing "generally and characteristically," in which the welfare of children is bartered away for high promotion averages? The truth is that society still tolerates, and often accepts, the belief that the purpose of education is the formation of a school system. We have yet to learn that, to use Herbert Spencer's phrase, the object of education is the preparation of children for complete living.

Education exists for the purpose of preparing and assisting children to live. To do that work effectively, it must devote only so much effort to school administration and to school machinery as will perform for boys and girls that very effective service.

No two children are alike, and no two children have exactly similar needs. There are, however, certain kinds of needs which all children have in common. It is obviously impossible to discuss in the abstract the needs of any individual child. It is just as obviously possible to analyze child needs, and to classify them in workable groups. It is true that all children are different; so are all roses different, yet all have petals and thorns in common. Similarly, there are certain needs which are common to all children who play, who grow, who live among their fellows, and who expect to do something in life. The matter may be stated more concretely thus,—

I. The school exists to assist and prepare children to live.

II. Living involves three kinds of needs, which it is the duty of the school to understand and interpret.

1. Needs which the child has because he is a physical being.

2. Needs which result from the child's surroundings.

3. Needs which arise in connection with the things which the child hopes to do in life.

A further analysis of these groups of needs constitutes the subject matter of the next chapter.


[Footnote 19: Sacrificing Children, W. E. Chancellor, Journal of Education, Vol. 77, pp. 564-565 (May 22, 1913).]



I Child Growth—A Primary Factor in Child Life

In the first place children have certain needs because in common with many other living creatures they develop through spontaneous, self-expressive activity. The growth of children is a growth in body, in mind and in soul.

During the first six years of life the bodies of children grow rapidly, and during these years we wisely make no attempt to train their minds. From six to twelve or thirteen body growth is slower, the mind is having its turn at development, and during these years the children start to school.

Then, at twelve or thirteen or fourteen, differing with different races and different individuals, all normal children enter the fairyland of adolescence. Life takes on new meanings, human relationships are closer, great currents of feeling run deep and strong through the child's being, because there is coming into his life one of the most wonderful of human experiences—the dawning of sex consciousness.

This period of sex awakening produces a profound change in the lives of boys, but it works an even greater transformation in the lives of girls. For both sexes it is a time of rapid physical growth and of severe mental and spiritual strain. It is a time when the energies of the body are so entirely devoted to the development of sex functions that great mental stress should above all things be avoided, yet it is at this very time—think of it!—when we send our boys and girls to high school, and force them to spend a great part of their waking hours in severe intellectual efforts.

II Children Need Health First

Had we set out with the deliberate intention of torturing our children we could have devised no better method. If we had applied ourselves to physiology, found out the time when the child needed the most energy for physical growth and the most relief from mental strain, and had then set out to plan a course of study which would wreck his health, we should have built a school system which gave him the comparatively easy work of the elementary grades until he was fourteen, and then, at the most critical period of his life, sent him into a new system of schools to study new, abstract subjects.

What is it that our children must have before they can acquire anything else? Health! We cry the word aloud, emphasizing and exhorting—nothing without health! Yet, despite our protest, at a period of rapid physical growth, at the time of severe spiritual trial, there yawns the high school—grim for boys, ghastly for girls—with its ever-recurring demand: "Work, study; study, work."

Considering the child's physical welfare, the high school is placed at exactly the point (fourteen to eighteen years) where it is best calculated to destroy the delicate balance of sanity, rendering its victims unable to stand the burden and heat of life's later day.

We cannot escape the fact that children have bodies. The first duty of the schools, therefore, is to recognize the existence of these bodies by giving them due attention, particularly at the crucial periods of physical growth. Therefore every school must provide as much physical training as is necessary to insure normal body growth at each particular age.

Then there are certain rules of health—"hygiene," they are called—which should be taught to every child. Since bodies do not stay normal if they are abused every child should have right ideas of body care.

Most important of all, the schools must instruct children in sex hygiene because the growth of sex consciousness is one of the most significant of the changes which occur in the life of a child.

"But must sex hygiene be taught in the school?" you will ask.

Undoubtedly it must. If it were a choice between sex instruction in the home or in the school, there would be no hesitation about delegating it to the home; but since most homes neglect the discussion of sex matters, leaving the children to gain their knowledge of sex from unreliable sources on the streets, the choice lies between the perversion of sex as it is taught on the streets, and the science of sex as it should be taught in the schools.

III Play as a Means to Growth

Children's minds grow as well as their bodies—grow in retention, in grasp, and in power. Memory work (the learning of poems, songs, and formulas) helps to make minds more retentive, while all studies, but particularly number work, increase mental grasp and power.

Besides body growth and mind growth all children have soul growth. They develop human sympathy, and they are interested in esthetic things. To supply these needs the school must give the child literature and art. Simple these lessons must be, particularly in the elementary grades; but there is scarcely a child who will not respond to the noble in literature or the beautiful in art if these things are presented to him in an understandable way.

The bodies, minds, and souls of children grow. They are all sacred. Each child needs a normal body, an active mind, a healthy and a beautiful soul. We dare not develop bodies at the expense of minds and souls, but neither may we educate minds at the expense of souls and bodies—a tendency which has been fearfully prevalent in American education.

The most valuable means of securing this all-important growth is "play," which Froebel said contained the germinal leaves of all later life. Growth comes only through expression. One does not develop muscle by watching the strong man in the circus, but by exercising. The child's chief means of expression is through play, hence play is the child's method of securing growth.

In their earliest infancy children play. Their frolics and antics are really "puppy play," the product of overflowing life and animal spirits. At this "puppy play" stage, when the child plays merely to work off surplus energy, the most essential thing is a place to play, and the school must meet this need by providing playgrounds.

As children grow older they turn to a more advanced type of play. Instead of romping and frolicking individually they play in groups. It is in these group plays that the child gets his first idea of the duty which he owes to his fellows, his first glimmering of a social sense. In the home and in the school he is in a subordinate position, but in the "gang," or "set," he is as good as the next. Group play teaches democracy. More than that, group play has a moral value. Each one must play fair. Those who do not are ruthlessly ostracized, so children learn to abide by the decision of the crowd. While children's plays should be as untrammeled as possible, it is the duty of the school to stimulate group play by suggesting new games, organizing athletic meets, getting up interclass sports, and in other ways supervising and directing games and sports.

In the course of the child's life play takes another form, the form of creative work. Boys build wagons and houses; girls cook, and make dolls. The "puppy play" of their early childhood has evolved into a form of creative activity that sooner or later grips every human creature. We want to plant, to build, to plan, to make. It is the creative power within us yearning for expression, hence the well-planned school will provide simple forms of manual training by means of which both boys and girls will be taught to use their hands so skillfully that they may translate an idea into a concrete product.

Civilization has been described as the art of playing. Big folks are apt to look down on play because most of it is done by children. But listen, big folks: When Anna plays dolls she does it in a frank, serious, whole-souled way that you seldom imitate. There is no activity so vital to the child as play, nor does any man succeed at his work unless he can "play at it" with the fervor and abandon of a child.

IV Some Things Which a Child Must Learn

So much for the needs which a child has because he is a living creature. Suppose we turn now to some other needs—the needs which arise because the child is in a great universe and surrounded by his fellowmen. Wherever a child lives and whatever he does he must always face certain surrounding conditions. First among his surroundings are people. No one except Robinson Crusoe can get away from people, and even Crusoe had his man Friday.

Since we are compelled, whether we like it or not, to live with people, the school must teach language (oral and written), in order that the children may learn to tell others what they think, and may likewise understand the thoughts of others. The better the language the more clearly can they understand each other.

In order that children may have a proper respect for the rights of others the school should teach ethics by means of simple stories about people. Teachers should explain how men live in groups, and how, if group life is to be tolerable, men must respect each other's rights.

Perhaps in the upper elementary grades, and certainly in the high school, there should be some simple work in psychology in order that children may know how people's minds work.

Then besides the people of the present there are the people of the past, and, because the things which they did enable us to live as we do, children should be taught history, particularly the history of their own country, state, and town.

The child comes into contact, in addition to people, with the institutions which people have constructed—the home, the school, the state, the industrial system. Every child who grows to maturity will participate in the activity of these institutions, hence every child should be taught about them. In the last two years of the elementary grades civics can be successfully taught, since even at twelve years children are interested in the things which are happening around them. In the high schools this work can be carried much further in the form of social and industrial problem courses.

The most universal and by far the largest of the child's surroundings consist of the things about him. He lives in a world, a very little world to be sure, but to him it is great; and a knowledge of the world comes through a study of geography. Beginning with the geography of his native town (not with the basin of the Ganges) he can learn successively about the geography of the county, the state, the country, and then of the world.

Surrounding the child on every hand are plants and animals. Nature study gives him an intelligent interest in them. As he grows older general nature study may be subdivided into geology, botany, zoology; and the forces of nature may be examined in astronomy, chemistry, and physics: but most of these subjects are too specialized for the elementary grades, and should appear, if at all, in the high schools.

There is a group of courses which belongs in every school—elementary school as well as high school—namely, the courses which prepare children for life activity. Growth and training in the art of living enable children to fulfill the third function of their being—that of doing. Every man and every woman needs work in order to live, and it is a part of the duty of education to prepare them for that work.

First of all, as modern society has developed, every man and many women need an income-producing trade or occupation; hence it is the duty of the schools to provide trade and professional educations (really the same thing under different names). No child should be permitted to leave the schools until he is proficient in some income-giving work. The character of the teaching must be altered to suit the locality, but the principle is absolute.

Further, since men should not devote their entire lives to the same task, because they require a change of occupation, the school should aim to provide an avocation, or secondary occupation, which may occupy leisure hours. Manual training, agriculture, art work, and civics will supply different people with occupations for spare time.

Finally, since one of the chief duties of society is to insure a healthy and increasingly valuable supply of human beings, no one should leave the schools without a thorough domestic training, including training for parenthood. While this training should be given in a measure to boys, it should be intended primarily for girls, and should include biology, hygiene, chemistry, dietetics, psychology, and nursing. Although the elementary grades can provide only the simplest training along these lines that training should be given to every future housekeeper and mother.

V What Schools Must Provide to Meet Child Needs

If, up to this point, we have rightly described child needs, the school must be so organized as to provide for growth and play, for instructing the child in a knowledge of people, institutions, things and ideas, and for preparing every child to do his work in life.

These subjects must be so apportioned over the grades that each child has the benefit of them. The high school is a continuation of the elementary school. It is in the high school that children should begin to specialize, because specialization before the beginning of adolescence is undesirable; but since, in many localities, almost all of the children leave before reaching the high school, these subjects must be taught in the elementary grades. Certain things every child must know. If he is going to drop school at fourteen, as three-quarters of the American school children do, he must be reached in the first eight school grades. If he goes to high school he may there be given an opportunity to complete and intensify the education which the elementary school has started.

We believe that these fundamental principles of education are sufficiently flexible to fit any community in the United States; they will apply to places of the most divergent school needs.

VI The Educational Work of the Small Town

Let us begin by applying the scheme to a mining village of three thousand inhabitants, a typical industrial community.

In this village more than nine-tenths of the children leave school at or before fourteen years of age, so that whatever school training they get must be secured between the ages of six and fourteen.

The kind of activities that the children will take up in life is fixed by the custom of the town. The great majority of the boys go into the mines or shops, while practically all of the girls help around the home until they marry. A small number work in stores and factories.

The life is rather primitive; the houses are set far apart; the children have an abundance of play space; they are required to do chores in homes where they receive little home training. The town affords an unparalleled opportunity to learn nasty things in a nasty way.

Almost all of the educational work in such a town must be done in the elementary schools. While high school facilities may be afforded they will appeal to a vanishingly small percentage of the children.

The elementary schools in such a village must provide organized games for the younger children and organized sports for the older ones; a sufficient amount of physical training to insure robust bodies; careful instruction in physiology, body hygiene, and sex hygiene; simple manual training for the younger children; thorough preparation in the reading and writing of English; the fundamentals of numbers; geography with particular reference to the geographic conditions in the immediate locality; civics and history—particularly American history; a thorough drill in English and American literature; a minimum amount of instruction in fine art—drawing, painting, modeling; an extensive system of nature study, supplemented by field trips.

This course should be required of boys and girls alike. In addition to these studies the boys in a coal-mining village should receive careful instruction in geology, particularly in the mineralogy of the region in which the mine is located; technical training in mining, drafting, and shop work; and a sufficient training in agriculture to enable them to make good kitchen gardens, since gardening is one of the chief avocations of men in such a community.

Parallel to this special training for boys the schools should provide for girls a thorough course in domestic science, with particular emphasis on economical purchasing, and an education for parenthood, including hygiene, dietetics, psychology, and nursing.

Such a course of study given in a typical mining village would tend to make of the boys educated, trained workmen, and of the girls educated, trained mothers. To be sure this course would not make of the boys railroad presidents or United States senators; but even that is not a drawback because, incredible as it may sound to many old-fashioned ears, the vast majority of these boys will be miners and mechanics. The question is, therefore, Shall they be good miners or bad ones? United States senatorships bother them not a whit.

If there are, as there always will be in such a village, a few exceptional children who desire more advanced work, the teacher can do exactly what he does now—namely, give them special instruction.

Such an educational system as that outlined would require more training in the teachers, and an additional outlay for tools and school-rooms, but it would train the boys and girls of the village to live their lives effectively.

The mine-village educational problem is rendered especially easy of solution because the community is small in size, and because there are only two occupations, mining and homekeeping, into which the children go.

A similar situation may be found in most of the agricultural districts, except that the boys take up farming instead of mining, while the girls are called upon to participate in farm work to the extent of caring for chickens and pigs, and sometimes for milk. In such an agricultural community the same outline for study might apply, except that in training for occupations boys should be taught the facts regarding soil fertility, fruit culture, dairying, market gardening, and other agricultural problems, while girls need instruction which will fit them for domestic life and for parenthood.

In New York State a number of agricultural high schools giving a course such as the one just hinted at, have met with marked success. Most country children do not go to high school, however—although they are doing so in increasing numbers—and hence the necessity for shaping the elementary course along similar lines.

VII The Educational Problems of an Industrial Community

When the mining village and the farming district are replaced by the industrial town and the city, the school problem is greatly complicated by the crowding of many people into a small space and by the great diversity of occupations which the people pursue. The larger the town the worse the crowding and the greater the variety of jobs. Otherwise the problem of education remains largely the same.

The most apparent need of the town child is a place to play, and the plainest duty of the town elementary school is to provide play space. In thinly settled places there is no such need. In towns and cities there is no more imperative duty resting on the school than the furnishing of playgrounds and gymnasiums for children. The practice of building school houses without gymnasiums and without play spaces cannot be too strongly condemned. It is robbing children of the chance to grow into normal human beings.

The other side of the town problem—the question of occupations—has been settled in Germany, and more recently in certain American cities, by the "continuation" school, which unties the Gordian knot by cutting it. Instead of allowing children to stop school at fourteen the "continuation" system requires partial school attendance until they are eighteen.

Under this system, when children reach the end of the elementary schools they may either go on with a high school course for four years, or else they may take a "continuation" course for four years.

For example, if a boy elects to be a carpenter he spends forty hours a week as a carpenter's apprentice. Then for fourteen hours a week he goes to a school where he is taught mechanical drawing, designing, the testing of materials, and any other subjects which bear on carpentering. The time he spends in school is credited on the time sheets of his employer.

So at the end of four years the boy, at eighteen, has been well trained in the practice of carpentering by working at his job, and well schooled in its theory by taking a "continuation" course which bore directly on his work. Thus wage-earning and education are united to produce a well-trained man.

The school problem of the city suburb is very different from that of the mining village, the rural community, the industrial town, or the city. The children have space, good homes, and abundant opportunity to go through high school and even through college. Under these conditions the elementary grades can be directly preparatory for high school work, since six or even seven out of ten children will go to high school.

In the city suburb there need be little specialization in the elementary grades. The high school, with a general course and two or three special courses, can be relied upon for all necessary specific training.

VIII Beginning with Child Needs

In the industrial town, in the city, and in the city suburb the high school is being looked to as the place where specialized training must be given. The trade school can succeed a little, but its effectiveness will always be limited by the narrow technical character of its instruction, which makes the "continuation" school generally preferable. The high school is not a separate institution, but an integral part of the school system. In a high school, therefore, the children should move naturally from the studies of the elementary grades to more advanced studies, but the purpose of both elementary and high schools is the same—the preparation of children for living.

Children have needs which the schools are here to supply. Certain of these needs are common to all children, and to that extent all schools must provide similar training. Other needs, varying with the size and character of the community, call for a like variation in the course of study.



I The Kindergarten

No single chapter can contain all of the progressive notes that are being sounded in American Elementary Education; yet it is possible, after some arbitrary picking and choosing, to describe a number of the most typical and most successful educational innovations. At the bottom of most up-to-date elementary school systems is the kindergarten. Not so often as it might be, but still frequently, the child begins school work there. The games, the songs, the children's sports of these kindergarten years, make a joyous entry-way into the grades. In Gary the kindergarten child sees life. The flowers, leaves, grasses, lichens, fruits, butterflies, moths, and birds are usually brought to the classroom. The Gary children go on expeditions to explore nature's wonderland, besides making excursions to squares, parks, and to the open country. The kindergartners of Cincinnati plant tulip bulbs in the city parks, and visit farms in order to have a chance to meet the farm animals. Singing, visiting, playing, shaping, building, the kindergarten child sees life on many sides. Perhaps, finally, other cities following the lead of Cincinnati will introduce the kindergarten spirit and kindergarten activities into the lower grades where they will clarify an atmosphere, fetid and dank with concepts which to the six-year-old are meaningless abstractions.

II Translating the Three R's

At best the kindergarten reaches but a few. Even in cities which boast of a system of organized kindergartens, only a small portion of the children attend them. On the other hand, since practically all school children enter the grades, it is on them that an inquiry into elementary education must be focused.

The time has passed when reading, writing, and arithmetic made up the entirety of a satisfactory elementary education. Like the kindergarten, the elementary school must touch life; like the kindergarten, it must provide for child needs. Everywhere schools are turning from the old methods of teaching spelling, multiplication, and syntax to the new methods of teaching children,—yes, and teaching them those things which they need, irrespective of name. Three R's no longer suffice. The child requires training from the Alpha to the Omega of life.

Compare, for example, the old method of teaching geography with the new. Under the abandoned system, the child began with capes, peninsulas, continents, meridians, trade routes, rivers, boundaries and products. Under the new system, he begins with the town in which he lives. Each schoolroom in Newark, for example, is provided with a large map of the city. In addition to these complete maps, each child is given a series of small maps, each of which centers about a familiar square, store, or public building. Then, from this simple beginning, the child fills in the surrounding streets and buildings. Newark geography begins in the third grade with a description of the school yard and the surroundings of the school lot. After all, what more simple geography could be conceived than the geography that you already know. Borneo and Beloochistan are abstractions except to the most traveled, but what child has not noted the red bricks and ugly iron fences surrounding his own school yard? Charity and geography both begin logically at home.

When in the later Newark grades the children are taught about Europe and Australasia, they are taught on a background of the geography of yards, alleys, squares, streets and playgrounds with which they are familiar. Geography thus concretely presented, becomes comprehensible to even the dullest mind.

III Playing at Mathematics

The passing system of elementary mathematics took the innocents through addition, subtraction and the abatis of multiplication tables, until every child was fully convinced that

Multiplication is vexation, Division's twice as bad, The rule of three perplexes me, And practice drives one mad.

To-day arithmetic begins with life. The teachers at Gary organize games in which the children are divided into two sides. Some of the children play the game, while others keep score. Unconsciously, under the stress of the most gripping of impulses—the desire to win—these little scorekeepers learn addition. As they advance in the work, they take up practical problems—measure the room for flooring and measure the school pavement for cementing. At school No. 4, in Indianapolis, one of the teachers wanted a cold-frame and a hot-bed for use in connection with her nature work. The class in mathematics made the measurements; the drawing class provided the plans; the boys in the seventh and eighth grades dug the pit and constructed the beds.

The higher grade mathematics work in Indianapolis is extremely concrete. Prices and descriptions of materials are supplied, and the children are asked to compute given problems involving the buying of meats, groceries, and other household articles; the cost of heating and lighting the home; the cost of home furnishing; the construction of buildings; cost-keeping in various factories; the management of the city hospital; the taxation of Indianapolis; the estimation and construction of pavement; and, generally, the mathematical problems involved in the conduct of public and private business.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse