« PreviousContinue »
impulse whose vibrations are felt to the ends of the earth. What is true of such an international meeting is true of all such meetings whatever the subject-matter may be. The more varied and close are the relations established between men and women of different peoples the easier it will be to secure the federation of nations, to establish an international court, and make an end of devastating war.
It is a little remarkable that in the field of the administration of schools and colleges and teaching there has been less of international conference than in almost any other field of great importance. There are several distinct departments of educational work in which international conferences could do much for the cause of general education. These are: (1) Administration of schools for the people; (2) the training of teachers; (3) the management and instruction in secondary schools and colleges. Almost the entire field of university work is covered by some of the conferences and associations already organized. In the other fields named little has been done. That there is supreme need of such international meetings of school officials and educators may be patent to anyone at all familiar with the conditions in the several countries. A city school system in Austria or Prussia has excellencies which are quite unknown except to a limited few either in England or America. It also has defects of which its own officials and teachers seem quite unconscious. Our forty-five states, each an empire in itself, with its constant attrition and enterprising readiness to experiment which is in vogue, have systems of schools at once broad, thoro, and elastic, in which culture and power are almost equally sought. It is a national school system in the making that is now to be seen in the United States. The free movement and philanthropic motives which inspire American public education offer a good object-lesson to foreign visitors, as many of them are prompt to confess. On the other hand, the more definite aims and superior technique to be seen in the schools of Germany and France are worthy of our most careful study. After all, it is a species of despotism that permits the education of children to be dominated more by national aims and ambition than by human needs and the teachings of psychology. Education, the world over, should be for the child and for the highest manhood and womanhood. Caste and red tape and the restriction of individual opportunity must give way to the higher humanism, which seeks equal freedom and happiness for all.
It may be said in passing that one finds peculiar difficulties in trying to visit foreign schools. Why the German educational authorities regard it as such a concession to permit a stranger to visit the schools, or why the classrooms of the great public schools of England are hermetically sealed to educational investigators, has not yet been explained. Not only is it difficult to enter the schools, but once in it takes a long time to get a bird's-eye view of the situation. It is thought to be objectionable to have persons enter a classroom while the recitation is in progress, and so one must remain several hours to get a good idea of a single school.
International conferences would tend to dispose of old rudimentary forms and to introduce everywhere a spirit that is at once modern and human. The educational experience and knowledge of the best minds in every nation would be shortcircuited and placed at the disposal of the world. The gross ignorance now prevalent in Europe touching American educational work would soon be dispelled, for our countrymen are not only able to do things, but are not backward in telling how they should be done. The same secretiveness that keeps school behind closed doors might make some European educators indifferent or hesitant about joining in such conferences, but this conservatism would soon give way to a purpose so promising of good results and so fraught with mutual interest and enjoyment.
In one department at least of general education a good beginning has been made in a concerted international movement, and that is in drawing and applied art. The interesting conference on this subject held in Bern one year ago not only deserves more serious mention than it has yet received, but may be taken as an illustration of the force of what has been said about international conferences in general. This was the second conference of drawing, the first having been held in Paris in 1900. At the first conference Miss Mary C. Wheeler of Providence was almost the sole American representative, and it was due entirely to her enterprise and initiative that delegates were appointed and persuaded to attend the conference of last summer. Being an artist and having for years made art studies an important feature in her own excellent school for girls, she felt the necessity of a wide movement for a broader art training in the lower schools.
The beautiful city of Bern was made doubly attractive by the foresight and wise arrangements of the local committee. M. Léon Genoud, Director of the Technical Institute at Fribourg and chairman of the committee of arrangements, had been untiring in his efforts for the success of the congress. The opening session was held in the Parliament Hall of the Federal Building and M. Robert Comtesse, President of the Swiss Republic, made an address of welcome. A bureau of the congress, composed of one delegate from each country represented, held daily meetings and settled all questions touching the daily program, the scope to be given to the discussions, and all other matters not otherwise provided for. The regular sessions of the congress, which continued four days, were held in the attractive high school situated near the university. In the corridors and classrooms of this building were installed exhibits of drawing and designs by students of all grades from the kindergarten to the college and technical school. These exhibits were a telling feature of the congress and were eagerly studied by the eight hundred and more instructors and artists in attendance. Some of the delegates who had brought exhibits were kept busily employed answering questions and explaining their work. The addresses prepared for the congress and the conclusions which each speaker desired to urge were printed in German, French, or English, as the case might be, making a document nearly one-half as large as the annual report of the National Educational Association of the United States. Thus every delegate had in hand at the start the subject-matter of the congress and could be better prepared for discussion when the opportunity was afforded. The speakers did not usually read their papers, but in a few words called attention to the points which they wished particularly to emphasize. The President, M. Ed. Boos-Jegher of Zurich, who spoke fuently the three languages used, made the entire program intelligible to all present by following each address with a brief statement in the languages not used by the speaker. Often he appointed others to act in this way as interpreters. While this somewhat retarded the progress of the program, it enabled all to get the substance and spirit of all the papers presented. Those from the United States giving addresses were Miss Wheeler, Mr. Fred H. Daniels of Springfield, Messrs. Churchill and Dutton from the Teachers College, New York; C. Howard Walker of Boston; and Dr. James P. Haney, Director of Manual Training, New York City. Others who took part in the proceedings were Mr. James F. Hopkins, Boston; Mr. W. A. Baldwin of Hyannis, Mass.; and Mr. Charles M. Carter, Denver.
Most of the addresses sounded a truly educational note in favor of art study as a means of human culture thru the development of imagination and taste rather than simply as a form of technical training. This idea was by no means wanting in the papers of English and French teachers. Germany did not make a strong showing from an educational point of view, either in the statements made or in the exhibits of work, altho certain exhibits from Bohemia were marvelously beautiful in their execution and finish.
This leads me to speak more particularly about the exhibits from the United States and the impression they made upon the foreign delegates, for it was in this connection that the potency of such a congress in diffusing sane ideas and securing educational reform is seen. A full, well-assorted, and splendidly arranged exhibit of work by pupils of all grades in the Springfield (Mass.) schools was perhaps most significant of what is now current in this country. Possibly many other cities could have done as well. Some no doubt could have done better in some particular feature. But the charm and compelling attractiveness of this Springfield exhibit was a revelation of child life and activity. It was not a scheme, but the absence of it, that was noticeable. It was not a gradation of steps, logical and painful, with its restrictions and retardations of growth, but a variety of opportunities for self-expression, which the child had eagerly and joyfully accepted and in which he had found true delight. It might have been a ramble in the field, the garden, or the forest, among flowers, birds, and insects, a walk along the street, the study of a beautiful picture, the reproduction of a story with pencil or brush; whatever the occasion, the child was in evidence as a child, doing his best because happy and enthusiastic. There was constant progress thru the grades and during the high school, but at no point was there a kind of mature excellence which arouses the suspicion that the free play of feeling and imagination has been shackled in the interest of technical or industrial motives. Similar characteristics were to be observed in the work from Miss Wheeler's school, in that from Brookline, done under the direction of Miss Weir, as well as that from the Teachers College and from Hyannis. Other interesting exhibits from the United States were a unique course in composition and design prepared by student teachers under the direction of Professor Arthur Dow, and specimens of design applied in manual training from New York City.
To the thoughtful educator the greatest interest in the conference will naturally be found in the recognition which the American exhibit received from English and continental delegates. It may be said at once that in France, especially in Paris, there is a movement for educational drawing, so that while hitherto the child has been largely ignored, M. Guébin, now at the head of drawing in Paris, expresses his entire sympathy with the American work and hopes at the next congress to show results in the same direction.
To say that the English teachers gave hearty and unbounded praise to our work is not beyond the truth. Two or three of the most prominent English delegates gave emphatic sanction to the educational motive revealed in the American drawing and hoped that the English schools might be pervaded by the same spirit. They made a strong and successful plea for holding the next congress in London and urged the need of England for light and help as a chief argument.
M. Génoud, who was the leading spirit in the conference, as he was its efficient organizer, declared that America came off with honors. Several exhibits from the United States were solicited for exhibition in European cities, and afterwards are to become the property of the Swiss government. While the exhibits from most continental countries gave unmistakable evidence of the formal methods pursued in their schools, much of