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he will not find Milton's "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" more sublime than understandable.
Not long ago a friend of mine saw a copy of Gayley's Classic Myths on my book shelf, and immediately borrowed it. When she returned it, she said; "One day in school I read a book I was not supposed to be reading and after it was taken away from me, I could never find it as I did not remember the name. It must have been that one or one something like it. I remember I used to love to read those myths, but rarely had the chance as they kept me busy doing other things." The other things must have been parsing hundreds of nouns and making pictures of sentences to satisfy some grammar fiend. The stories which were to train her for an appreciation for literature were sacrificed at the expense of an overdose of grammar. Far be it from me to leave out the grammar, but if anything is to be sacrificed pray let it not be something that will aid the future man or woman in enjoying the best of the world's literature.
An eighth grade class studying Dickens' "Christmas Stories" can develop a taste for the writings of Dickens that will only be destroyed when his mind grows too mature to be interested in his caricatures.
Of course, the child is not at school at all hours of the day and he does reading "on his own hook" so to speak. This reading can be guided by assignments of outside reading and can be begun, I think, even as low in the grades as the fifth or sixth. The best readers in the class will read Louisa M. Alcott's books anyway, and those who would not have read them will be profiting thereby. So the English teacher in the grades even as in the high school can guard the reading of her pupils. If the grade teachers were more eager to correlate their subjects with others the high school teachers of English would not have so hard a time teaching appreciation.
Whether or not the reading of the child in his travels through the grades has been carefully nurtured by each teacher, the high school teacher will sooner or later find that his boys and girls know good literature when they read it. Bliss Perry in his "Study of
Prose Fiction" says: "If the novel be the work of a master, there need be no fear of lessening the student's pleasure" by classroom dissection. "He will soon learn to discover the coventional tricks, the common-place devices of the hack-writer; the books of the great writers will seem no whit less wonderful than before."
Several years ago I heard of a high school English teacher, who placed on the top shelf of his book closet the classics usually studied in high school. He told the class that those books were so old that he was not going to teach them, but that instead they would study some very modern novels. Before the year was out the boys asked for the classics. After I had heard this story, I performed an appreciation experiment in my four English classes in a small high school. In fact, this high school was in the country, where there were few library facilities and where little attempt at developing appreciation of literature had previously been made. I decided to read them a chapter from a master and also a chapter from a popular writer, and ask them when I had finished which they had enjoyed the more, and why. In order to make the experiment successful, it was necessary for me to read from books that they had not read. With the master, this was easy enough, and I chose "Les Miserables." With the popular book, it was more difficult, as even in remote sections of the United States most of the best sellers find their way and their friends. Finally, I took a chance that they would not recognize George Barr McCutcheon's "Nedra" when they heard it, and as it was in my landlandy's bookcase, I decided to use it. The books were about the same size, and I placed a white paper cover around each. I thought it would not be exactly fair to the best seller to read it first, and then read a chapter about Cosette so I read the chapter from Victor Hugo first.
It was impossible to select parallel passages, so at random I read a chapter from about the middle of each book. When I finished the chapter from "Les Miserables," the freshman class begged me to read more. I did not, but without comment read the chapter from the second book. There was disappointment written on all of their faces. The same thing was true of the more advanced classes. As I could not tell the members of the first class the
names of the books until I had performed the experiment in each of the classes, there was an air of suspense at school for one whole day. After the papers from all the classes were collected, I took the covers off the books and showed them the names. George Barr McCutcheon was the favorite author of some of the members of each class and in almost every case they had voted for Victor Hugo. It would not be wise to say that these high school students changed from McCutcheon to Hugo over night, but the experiment proved to me that they, even with their scant training knew how to appreciate good literature when put to the test. I also had the satisfaction of knowing that at least some of them waded through the volumes of "Les Miserables" to read again the chapter they had heard, and that in the future they planned their reading more wisely. The English teacher would be doing her pupils a greater service if she would strive to develop a taste for the appreciation of real literature.
The High School Physics Course
A.W. FORBES, WORCESTER, MASS.
AVING recently been engaged in selecting employees for a position requiring a little knowledge of physics, particularly electricity, I was impressed with the ignorance of the fundamentals shown by high school graduates. The best way to find the reason why would be to follow the course as taught with particular reference to the impressions made on the student's mind, but this method is out of the question for a person engaged in managing a shop, so I followed an easier way, an examination of one of the leading text books.
Considering the portion that deals with electricity and magne tism, we find that this starts with a discussion of permanent magnets. Every one is familiar with the force of attraction due to magnets, so naturally that is taught first. However there is one serious objection to doing this. Attraction is merely one of the phenomena connected with magnetism under certain conditions. The effort of the student to interpret other magnetic phenomena on the basis of attraction and repulsion is responsible for much confusion in understanding this subject. It is doubtful if it is possible to get a clear understanding of magnetism as long as the mind insists on thinking attraction when magnetism is spoken of. The first effort in teaching magnetism should be to subordinate this idea to its proper place, or if possible to eliminate it entirely till the fundamentals of magnetism have been thoroughly established.
This is followed by a study of static electrification, electrostatic induction, and influence machines. This is the part of the study of electricity that is most difficult to understand, and it is doubtful if the majority of teachers have a clear understanding of the subject. Furthermore the subject is of but slight practical value, why it is introduced at all in an elementary course is
hard to see, as the students probably get more confusion than knowledge through its study.
Next we have the elementary relations of the electric current arranged in the following order.
The electric circuit.
The electric circuit.
The electrical circuit.
Batteries. (An effort to be practical by describing a number of kinds that the student will never see in practical use.)
Heating by electric current.
Electrolysis (a battery reversed).
And then we come again to the subject of magnetism in its proper place. The author is certainly fond of the subject of batteries, but why he should not treat it as a unit instead of coming back to it so often is an open question.
The authors of this book are not fools. They are scientists of considerable ability and experienced educators. There must then be some good and satisfactory reason for treating the subject in the way they have done. An examination of an old book entitled "Natural Philosophy" published in 1869 furnishes the explanation.
At that date the theory of the electric current was far from its present state of development, crude as the present state is. In fact few of the most extensive uses of electricity were even mentioned in the older book. The course was arranged to explain natural phenomena such as lightning, and to bring out the then prevailing theory of electricity, a theory that the author carefully states is adopted "simply because it is more easily applied." This theory has been abandoned, but the phenomena that tend to prejudice the student in its favor are still introduced first, and when it comes to learning the present theories this prejudice must be overcome.