« AnteriorContinuar »
ON THE BASIS OF COURSES OF STUDY IN SCHOOLS-WHETHER THEY SHOULD REST UPON THE DEVELOPING MAN AS MAN, OR MAN AS A MEMBER OF SOCIETY.
By Principal JAMES H. HOOSE, A. M., Ph. D., of the Cortland Normal School.
This general theme is old-it has engaged the conscientious attention of worthy minds all the way down through the many years past. Influences are at work in our State and Nation, which must be heeded by educators-these forces are protensive as well as intensive.
The purposes of this paper are not so much to inquire into the extent of the term education, as to investigate the basis for courses of study. But in this interest it will be necessary to glance rapidly at some views that are held by modern educators.
Educators are apparently inconsistent as between their theories and their practices. For we talk one thing and do another, or else we attempt to do two things and fail in both.
What is the province of the teacher as teacher? Shall the teacher, while in the school-room, be simply a teacher, or shall he be a citizen, or a man of business, or what is called a professional man? Shall the schoolroom be a minature world where all the influences of the world are recognized and felt, or shall it be a place of less wide ambition, but of more definite and fewer aims?
Regarding these questions, wide differences of opinion exist, but upon the determination of them hang all the points in discussion. I quote two views which state the extremes, between which lie all the others, sometimes approaching the one, sometimes the other extreme. John Stuart Mill, in his Inaugural Address at St. Andrews, says: "Education includes whatever we do for ourselves, and whatever is done for us by others, for the express purpose of bringing us nearer to the perfection of our nature; in its largest acceptation, it comprehends ever the indirect effects produced on character and on the human faculties by things of which the direct purposes are different; by laws, by forms of government, by industrial arts, by modes of social life; nay, even by physical facts not dependent on the human will; by climate, soil, and local position." He, however, limits his own discussion to this: "Education is the culture which each generation purposely gives to those who are to be its successors, in order to qualify them for at least keeping up, and, if possible, for raising the improvement which has been attained.'
The other view of education is that given by Mr. Alexander Bain, in his article on "Education as a Science," and published in Mind for January, 1877. He says: "I find in the article Education,' in Chamber's Encyclopedia, a definition to the following effect: In the widest sense of the word, a man is educated, either for good or evil, by everything that he experiences from the cradle to the grave [say, rather formed,'' made,' influence']. But in a more limited and usual sense, the term education is confined to the efforts made of set purpose, to train men in a particular way-the efforts of the grown-up part of the community to inform the intellect and mould the character of the young [rather too much stress on the fact of influence from without]; and more especially to the labors of
professional educators or school-masters. The concluding clause is nearest to the point; the arts and methods employed by the school-master; for although he is not alone in the work that he is expressly devoted to, yet he it is that typifies the process in its greatest singleness and purity. If by any investigations, inventions or discussions, we can improve his art to the ideal pitch, we shall have done nearly all that can be required. of a science and art of education."
In the first quotation, education is made to include the influences which exist that modify the life of man from whatever source. In the second, the meaning is restricted to those influences which the schoolmaster exerts, simply and solely.
Now, is it the business of the school-master to convert his school into a "wide, wide world," or shall he hold himself within restricted limits? Upon the choice taken of the above will depend the studies which will be pursued in schools.
II. ARGUMENT FROM HISTORY.
Historically considered, there appear the following purposes of educa
In early times, anterior to Rome, instruction was given the youth for one of two ends; either it was esoteric, meaning thereby to understand and perpetuate the mysterious, the occult, the religious; or it was exoteric, meaning that which related to the objective, the forms of worship and of living.
Whatever there was of erudition, properly so called, was substantially esoteric-only the select few attained unto it; this few constituted an hierarchy. The subjects of study were all theological in essence. Gradually these scholars extended their investigations into the fields of astrology, or astronomy, and into the philosophy of the subjective self. These latter stages cropped out in ancient Egypt, Chaldæa and Greece. This education was reached by only the very few.
For the masses of the people, there was only a training into a habit of living; a kind of tuition looking to the acquisition of that skill which addresses itself to the economy of the necessities and luxuries of the outer living. This was the exoteric, the objective, the forms of the material modes of living. This skill occasionally made ventures into the fields of applied learning; as in the great city of Babylon, with its immense walls, its hanging gardens, its system of water supply; as in the great pyramids of Egypt; as in the palaces of the Persian kings.
Yet all of this education was essentially utilitarian; to learn the work that would be required in adult age, be he soldier, mechanic, tiller of the soil, or yet the herdsman with staff.
In those times there was another idea that was practically very prominent. Man, as an individual, was of no value or consequence; his worth consisted in his ability to contribute towards the welfare and happiness of his superiors in social position. It is true that the esoteric instructions somewhat recognized the immortality and individuality of the man; but even here, the man reached the elysium beyond only as the gates were opened for him by the esoteric initiate.
Christianity introduced more emphatically the idea of the worth and independence of the individual man; but the idea expanded slowly in practice down to the time when Rome flourished. Grecian philosophy aided this idea of the value of the man as an individual.
These two forces, Christianity and philosophy, united in Rome to give prominence to the idea of the value of man as an individual.
At this time, then, instruction had faced these three ways: first, the mysterious, the esoteric, the "unknown God;" second, the mere mechanical routine of practical living-the exoteric, the objective; third, the speculations relating to the essence of life, and to the possibilities of man as man, the outgrowth of Christianity and Grecian philosophy. Following in the trend of these purposes appeared the branches of school instruction, and all the learning was confined thereto.
Now came Rome, the first victorious conqueror of the world which made the conquered nations substantially homogeneous in laws, in official language, in all that makes a people essentially one. Rome absorbed the esoteric, the exoteric, Christianity and philosophy. eliminated and evolved the more permanent features of all, and ascended high and proud in material grandeur upon her seven hills. Her youth were instructed largely upon the basis of the needs and necessities of the daily, practical life. But the conditions of life with Rome were vastly different from the conditions which had existed in any previous nation. Practical life in Rome was resting upon an advanced stage of learning in law, in business, in mechanics, in æsthetics. Into Rome converged the older civilizations, eruditions. In Rome were they mingled, amalgamated, made homogeneous, unified. In all of her instructions, Rome gave most prominence to those branches of study and of practice which looked towards fitting man for the social or civil life, rather than towards training man in the especial interest of his own subjective self.
Rome fell-the waves of her civilization spent themselves in faint ripples that were well-nigh exhausted long ago, amid the shoals and rocks of barbarian Europe. Scholasticism slumbered through the Dark Agesman was only servant, a serf, a follower; he was of no worth in his own being.
But the fires of Philosophy and Christianity only smoldered awhile; they burned upward, and anon blazed forth in the Reformation. With them stood forth again man somewhat as man, although not in magnified stature. Studies were pursued that faced with religion; little attention was given to the practical in life. Man, as a religious and philosophical subjective self, apparently over-topped and over-shadowed man as an agent in society. This was the era of classical erudition.
By degrees, and with varying results, the branches of study extended themselves so as to include the practical needs and necessities of daily living. The royal succession of studies-the classics-contested this encroachment upon their assumed prerogative. This appears strange, when it is remembered that classical learning, so called, is substantially only a history of, and an acquaintance with, the civilization which was the most eminently practical of all the old societies.
But the struggle continued; the country became more and more thickly populated; it began to appear evident that heretofore unreclaimed lands must be reclaimed and developed in their material wealth and possibilities, if the masses of the people were to live in any state except that of abject suffering.
Under this necessity, the schools introduced studies which had an exclusive outlook toward enabling man to live as a member of society, or of the body politic.
Schools of technology, schools of science and applied science sprang
into existence, not because the learned in the ancient lore so much wanted them, as because the changed condition of civilization compelled the innovation.
In farther considerations taken in this paper attention is called to the cry, almost universal, that the schools of to-day are not as thorough as they were in the times of our fathers. One reason is, that more branches of study are introduced into the courses. Why has this pressure for more studies in schools come forth at all? Evidently from the growing desire of both parents and teachers, that these and those branches are valuable as aids in society-i. e., in the great business world.
III. ARGUMENT FROM THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CASE.
The following resumé has been given in order to throw some light upon the state of education in the United States at the present day.
During the present year, there has been a general agitation along the "whole line" on the school question. Last winter was a sort of “Black Friday" in school matters, for the legislatures of so many States appeared to take backward steps on many questions heretofore assumed settled.
That this agitation existed is a fact; if a fact, there must be, somewhere, causes for it. For when Americans question the propriety of longer supporting schools at the public expense, alleging that they are not returning to the people full equivalents, it is full time that the matter be considered.
Some of our Eastern States, and probably some of the Middle, are just arriving at that stage of increasing population when it becomes imperative to consider this as a factor which enters into the question of the schools. In this regard, these States are approaching those stages which some of the European States reached years ago, and in which the industrial schools were opened. The same reasons exist with our States that existed then. The masses must live, and they must earn their own living; they must have school-instruction that shall aid them-the more especially so as there is no longer an operative system of apprenticeship among us. The people who pay for the support of the public schools claim returns in knowledge and in skill that shall serve them in their occupations and handicraft. This demand, from the very nature of things, has grown emphatic; and as the State becomes more thickly settled it will become positively dominant.
The courses of study, as early established in the schools of the United States, were of the tone and spirit of the European idea, that the masses were to subserve the interests of the learned few. It is claimed for them that they look towards developing man as man; but it can readily be shown that they rather contain the germ of the notion that rank is the natural state of man in his relations to man.
Again: By what reasoning can it be shown that the school tax should be expended upon schools where all the studies are but so many steps up the ascent to the high seats which are held by only the learned hierarchy the few? In our form of government, where the masses may inquire, it is not so easy to render a reason that shall quiet investigation, as it is in a land where people down at a bidding.
I take it that just here lies the strong force which agitates this whole subject-it is the inevitable struggle between the means for a livelihood on the one hand, and the "aristocracy of intellect" on the other.