Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Tables showing the courses as arranged by the committee, the subjects being reclassified for comparison.-In view of this discussion I would offer the following criticisms of the four model courses presented by the committee:

(1) While there is much to be said in favor of the courses as they stand, I think they lack more or less in simplicity of arrangement, in proper classification, in proportion, in continuity and adequateness of time for some of the subjects, in economy to a slight degree, and in failure to properly limit the number of studies.

(2) Taking 80 as the aggregate number for each of the four courses the proportionate number of each group is as follows:

[blocks in formation]

Except in the English course, foreign language appears to have more than its just proportion, and history and English claim a very large share in the course with one foreign language.

(3) It is doubtful whether higher algebra belongs to a high school course, although it is inserted in my own scheme.

(4) The scheme for science violates the principle so strongly urged of adequate time for each subject. Too many science subjects are inserted. It is better to pursue four sciences, each one year, than to take twice the number with half a year for each. If we select as the most important high school sciences, for instance, physical geography, physics, chemistry, and biology, we shall see that the committee have added (1) botany or zoology, (2) astronomy, (3) meteorology, (4) geology or physiography, (5) physiology. In the second and fourth years two sciences are presented side by side. Moreover, physics, the generic science, is given only three hours, no more than is given botany or zoology.

(5) In two of the courses besides the classical no history appears in the second and fourth years, except as an option in the fourth.

(6) Since in small high schools pupils in all courses should be taught the same subject in one class, there appears to be a mistake in that in a few instances divisions are made necessary.

FINAL STATEMENT.

The criticisms of the report of the committee of ten which I would emphasize most are these: The lack of a bold and clear analysis of the value of subjects before correlating the recommendations of the conferences; the implications that the committee favored an extreme theory of equivalence of studies; practical details in the organization of the model courses.

I do not know how far other members of the committee may agree with me in any of these adverse views, nor what stand may be taken by the council, and I feel a diffidence in taking exceptions to any parts of results the most of which can but be heartily approved. If the committee consent and the council wish it, it would seem very desirable that these points be given further consideration. It would be easy to obtain by correspondence the views of a few of the most intelligent programme makers in the country, and the committee could hold another meeting at some convenient time. We must remember that a large percentage of the schools will look chiefly at the practical and formal results of the investigation, hence the importance to be attached to the model courses. May I add that the recommendations of the conferences to introduce certain subjects in the elementary school period are worthy of the most careful and extended consideration at no remote date by a competent committee.

In closing I wish to express my most hearty appreciation of the work done by the other members of the committee, and especially by the chairman, who took the greater share of the burden as well as faith in the general results which should be but the beginning of a much needed work in this country.

[blocks in formation]

Proposed arrangement of courses (not marked out in detail, intended to be merely suggestive).

[An average of 4 periods per week to be given to each column.]

[blocks in formation]

*German, if taken, to be an extra, giving the pupil 20 hours instead of 16.

Greek, if taken, to be substituted for science for last two years and mathematics of last year.

[blocks in formation]

THE REPORT OF THE CONFERENCE ON ENGLISH.'

By A. F. NIGHTINGALE,

Superintendent of high schools, Chicago.

The committee of ten, clothed with the authority of the National Educational Association to appoint nine other committees of ten each, men of the largest experience and the widest repute, who should consult concerning the application of proper remedies to cure the evils which make the secondary schools (God save the mark!) "the most defective part of the education of this country," have published their report.

No such educational movement, whether considered in the light of its conception or in the light of its denouement, was ever before attempted.

The report is by far the best contribution to educational theory of the century, whether we consider the range of subjects discussed, the exhaustive treatment of each, the high character, scholarly ability, and rich and varied experience of the contributors, or the widely divergent opinions to which the report has given rise among the rank and file of those who are largely responsible for this "most defective part of our education."

The committee was nationally appointed for a national purpose, and it was fair to presume that the results of their deliberations were published for no other reason than to receive the commendation, the criticism, or the condemnation of the freethinking, individual-minded educators of this country.

We have been surprised therefore to note the attempts in the "I am holier than thou spirit" to smother freedom of speech and freedom of opinion on the dogmatic statements and wise suggestions of this great educational pronunciamento. Personally I have had no words but those of exalted praise for this marvelous report, issued with such marvelous unanimity in such a marvelously short time, but there are those who, out of their large experience and with the independence of the American spirit, have dared to place some strictures upon the conclusions reached. They are men whose experience entitles them to be heard with candor, whose opinions I respect, and whose judgment on educational matters, if I disagreed, would lead me to review my own.

I protest, therefore, in the name of untrammeled opinion against the anathema maranatha which has been pronounced upon them, and against the dictum of Holy Writ, slightly changed, which has been used to silence adverse opinions, "For I testify unto every man that readeth the words of this book, if any man shall add unto these things [the committee] shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book."

Wendell Phillips once said, "If the Alps, piled in cold and still sublimity, be the emblem of despotism, then the ever-restless ocean is ours, which, girt within the eternal laws of gravitation, is pure only because never still." So it seems to me that the far-reaching and long-abiding benefits of this report are to be secured, not from an idolatrous adoption of its every tenet, but through the ceaseless agitation in every educational circle of the ideas propounded, so that out of the revolution that has been inaugurated may come reformation, progress, advancement. Less than one hundred years ago a young girl in Hatfield, Mass., was in the habit of going to the schoolhouse and sitting on the doorstep, that she might listen to the recitations of the boys in a building across whose threshold no girl might cross as a pupil. Less than four score years ago Emma Willard, of sainted memory, gave the first examination in this country to a young lady in geometry, and about the same time she introduced into her little school in Middlebury, Vt., the study of physiology, and so great was the innovation, that at the examination the entire audience, shocked at the indelicacy of teaching such a subject to girls, rose and left the room, and they were not Christian scientists either. These instances with which our own fathers

Read before the National Educational Association, at Asbury Park, N. J., July, 1894.

and mothers were conversant seem strange to us now, and I refer to them only to show that, notwithstanding all the defects of our present educational system, its puerile methods and its meager results, there has been constant improvement, not only in the classes reached, but in the matter taught and in the methods used since 1792, when a Massachusetts town was indicted for voting "not be at any expense for schoolmg girls."

It is with this optimistic spirit that I approach the discussion of this much ana-. lyzed subject of English.

At the very outset I am pleased to state that it is my conviction that the highest interests of our schools would be subserved if, without a plus or a minus, and withont a single attempt at exegesis, this most admirable and most exhaustive report of the conference on English could be adopted and placed on trial as the "ne plus ultra" of matter and method in the instruction of the English language and of English literature in all our primary and secondary schools.

I do not agree, in my possible ignorance and stupidity, with all the propositions of all the conferences as set forth in this educational encyclical, but I am in hearty accord with this superb report of the conference on English, which is so largely permeated with the empirical thought of that teaching genius, Dr. Samuel Thurber, who by his ponderous strokes upon the anvil of everlasting truth has aroused on this subject the white heat of enthusiasm. His ideas may seem somewhat Utopian when we stand face to face with the heterogeneous elements of our cosmopolitan schools, but it is only through this looking up and lifting up spirit that we can ever approach those ideals which shall find all our children in a condition of intelligent homogeneity.

[ocr errors]

It is not my province to discuss the recommendations of the conference relative to elementary schools; but "if," quoting from the report, "during the period of life when imitation is the chief motive principle in education," the child could “be kept away from the influence of bad models and under the influence of good models,” and if "every thought which he expresses would be used as a proper subject for criticism as to language," all of which is practically impossible amid such a lamentable lack of language culture among the common school teachers of to-day, then indeed would there be little to change or criticise in our secondary schools, and our colleges would be a veritable "Paradise Regamed" for the professors of literature.

It is the process of undoing what has been poorly done, and doing what has been left undone that dissipates the strength, shocks the sensibilities, and destroys the nerves of our secondary teachers, most of whom are the products of the wisdom of the colleges.

When the radical reforms now being attempted shall have culminated in perfecting the what and the how in our lower schools, then shall we make axiomatic the maxim that the beginning is half the end.

Taking exceptions to the brief and summary way in which the committee discard the spelling book, which we believe to be still a spell of power and of might in all schools where the foreign element largely predominates, we commend this portion of the report as a New Testament on the teaching of English.

I do not echo the universal opinion of all competent to judge in maintaining that language is or ought to be the basic study in all our schools. It is the fountain head whence flow all the helpful, healing streams of education. Language is the key that unlocks all human thought and gives voice to all human aspirations. To think well, to speak well, to write well-these are the rightful heritage, the common prerogative of all who are correctly educated.

Words are ammunition in the battery of intelligence, steam in the engines of thought, true coin in the exchange marts of scholastic culture. A man without words is like a beautiful ship launched upon the welcome bosom of the sea without a pilot. There is no substitute for language. It is the common carrier of all thought, the drawn sword of all strife, and the one language that American pupils should

« AnteriorContinuar »