« AnteriorContinuar »
New Ways in German School Organization
EDMUND VENZLAFF, PH. D.,
TEACHER AT THE ELIZABETH SCHOOL, BERLIN.
HE political revolution, which was the sudden breaking down of nerves strung to the utmost in the course of four long years of fighting and suffering, made every institution in Germany tremble to its foundations, and even such a peaceful and unpolitical institution as the German school system was for a time shaken by the throes of a mighty convulsion.
Authority was the backbone of the German schools; the discipline smacked a little of the military. The teachers looked upon their headmaster as their superior, and upon the pupils as their subordinates. Disciplinary punishment threatened the undutiful teacher, corporal punishment, and even expulsion, could be inflicted on the pupil. When the revolution came, it caused excitement and confusion in the ranks of the pupils and of the teachers, too. Part of the pupils, especially those who had found difficul ties in meeting the school requirements, felt that they had all the time been oppressed and stunted in their individuality; they wanted to substitute self-government of the pupils for authority of the teachers. Some teachers felt deeply "the insolence of office and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes"; these wanted to do away with the headmasters and to make the teachers of a school a small republic which elected their speaker or president. Less radical persons wanted a teachers' committee or teachers' council.
The general public, too, was deeply interested in the question of remodeling the schools. The political parties made it an important point in their platforms. The reformers wanted to do away with authority in the schools, and called upon the members of the radical parties who were in office, to help them in
this work. The first minister for culture and education after the revolution, Haenisch, a socialist, sent out a proclamation to the pupils of the secondary schools, promising them freedom and selfgovernment and giving them the choice between two institutions: one was the school meeting, comprising all the pupils of the school from an age of about fourteen years, and the other the pupils' committee, consisting of two or three representatives from each class. He also sent out a proclamation to the teachers, exhorting them to be elder comrades to the pupils and not superiors.
For some time German education presented the picture of a chaos, a war of all against all, a condition which certainly was not profitable for the work done in the schools. Therefore, when the excited minds had quieted down a little, most educators began to consider:
Was German education really as bad as some had represented it to be? Surely it had faults: it was one-sided, it had only taught boys and girls to think. But that was at least something; and the thinking these boys and girls had done when they had become men and women was of such a standard as to put Germany into the front rank of intellectual nations. The rigid discipline, which was accountable for much cheating and lying, had saved much time which else must be spent in persuading the pupils to regular attendance, good behavior and diligent work.
It was to be feared that educators, in their haste to throw away old methods and to follow new ones, might fail to attain either. So the enthusiasm for extreme measures soon subsided. The pupils of the secondary schools mostly rejected the school meeting, contenting themselves with the pupils' committee, the competence of which is not yet clearly defined. The minister of education, moreover, gave them the right to elect a member of the teachers' staff as a kind of adviser and liaison officer between the staff and the pupils. The teachers likewise pronounced themselves in favor of a teachers' committee, leaving to the headmaster a good deal of his ancient authority. Besides, parents' committees were elected at each school, and parents' meetings held from time to
time to remedy a deeply felt lack of co-operation between the parents and the teachers.
Will these organizatory measures better the relations betwen the pupils, the teachers, and the parents, as the methodical German hopes? Only the future can show. But things are not likely to mend so long as Germany is divided into half-a-dozen hostile camps of as many political parties, the noise of whose fighting does not even come to a stop at the doors of the schools.
Who Saved The Stars?
Flags with the lily white,
Wave, wave, wave,
Over each grave
Of the bonny boys who fell!
Wave, and with your colors tell
The story, how the braves who lie asleep
Fill God's infinite, immortal deep.
MINNIE E. HAYS.
It will repay any thoughtful person who is interested in educational problems,-be he parent, school official or class room teacher,-to make an occasional visit, for the purposes of observation, to a first class Poultry Show. A very large exhibition of this kind is held annually in Mechanics Hall, Boston, at the opening of the year. continues for one week and is visited by thousands of persons, most of whom, of course, are especially interested in poultry, but not a few of whom no doubt gain facts and insight that bear directly upon educational problems pertaining to "humans" as well. The Editor of EDUCATION was impressed, as he studied this Show, this year, with the marvelous results which have been wrought by the "fanciers" by intelligent use of the principle of "selection." The wizards of selection seem to be able to mold the gallinaceous matter and life-principle, almost at will, into such forms and fitted to accomplish such purposes as they may choose. Nature seems to be their docile and obedient servant, ready and willing to do their bidding and to produce either size, shape, color, design, disposition, fertility, docility, fighting ability, or whatever outward or inward qualities may be desired. The fancier simply determines what he wants, and then begins to develop it by carefully selecting the eggs of such birds as individually show a tendency toward the characteristics which he desires. From the chickens hatched from these eggs he selects those which repeat the desired characteristics, and experiments again with their eggs, getting thus a "set" toward a definite goal. In five years or so, he has so far intensified the particular characteristics he is after, that he has a good start, or perhaps has already practically reached his goal. The "get" of his flock begins to come true, and he can advertise a "laying strain," a breed of "heavyweights," or one with exquisitely marked plumage, or with single combs, double combs or no combs at all, as it may please him. He can take a huge Brahma and in a few generations have a pretty little Bantam marked exactly like its ten-or-twelve-pound greatgreat-great-great-grandmother, but weighing only one pound.
Now, what is this but education? To be sure, the poultry wizard is mainly after physical characteristics, and the educator places much greater emphasis on mental and spiritual elements. But the laws of matter and those of spirit are akin. The results accomplished in the lower field should be seen as a very great encouragement for those who are working in the higher realm. More emphasis should be put on this very matter of selection, which is the key-note in the production
process of the fancier. Why should not the home and the school teach, carefully and emphatically, the immense importance of selection in the mating of the human species? We cannot work by the same methods as the fancier. We cannot impose the matter of selection upon our young men and maidens; but we can see that they are informed about it and advised to consider it and avail themselves of its advantages. Both physical and mental, not to mention spiritual characteristics, depend just as surely and largely upon this principle in the human species as in the lower animals. Yet how little we hear about it! How ignorant is the average young man and woman about the consequences to themselves and to the race, of careless, thoughtless marriages! Parents would do well to take their children to the poultry shows, and make such visits the occasion of tactful and delicate suggestion and instruction that might save the children themselves, and the race, from the direful results which we see on every hand, from thoughtless and unintelligent mismatings.
Courtesy is a gem of the first water. It shines, resplendent, in any station or grade of human society. It is a source of satisfaction to its possessor and of happiness and inspiration to the recipient, as well as to all onlookers. It is a passport to polite society, a guarantee of advancement, a keystone to success. It is a winner, every time and everywhere. It costs no money. It is free to all. It becomes a habit after a time, and radiates beneficence and blessing. It should be taught in all schools and in every class room. Perhaps it would be more pertinent to say that it should be caught in every class room. It can be taught by no teacher who has not caught it. But it is very contagious, espe cially among young people. Sometimes a single high-minded, selfcontrolled, manly boy or womanly girl, coming into a school which has been full of a spirit of selfishness, bickerings, coarseness or thoughtlessness, instantly changes the entire atmosphere of that school without apparently doing anything deliberately intended to accomplish such a change. Or, it may be a new teacher who produces such an effect. However caused, it is a blessing that cannot be fathomed or measured. The same thing may be said of the home, or of the lodge, the church, the village, the neighborhood; or of the store, the factory or the counting-room. A thing so valuable should surely be made a study of by parents and teachers. It should be striven for in the home and in the class room. It can usually be cultivated. With some it will come easy, with others hard. So it is with whatever is worth having; and sometimes those who have to work the hardest to overcome and