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THE HIGH SCHOOL AS A FITTING-SCHOOL.
A. F. BECHDOLT, MINNESOTA,
The high school is the successor to and outgrowth of the academy. Before the public-school system was fully developed and bad secured recognition as the American system, all the higher training of the country below the college standard was done by academies. Now there were all kinds of academies. Some derived their patronage altogether from those who were preparing for admission to some one college; others claimed to prepare young men for business. Some boasted of the strict discipline enforced; others, of the delightful home-life offered. Some were strictly boys' or girls' schools, and others, again, were co-educational.
As the academy lost its hold upon the people, the wider and more various became the purposes it sought to serve. All this has become the inheritance of the high school.
One citizen supports the high school because it is a "fitting-school" for college; another, because it prepares for business; another, because it is a school where children may become familiar with the elements of the natural sciences in an experimental way; and still another believes in it because of its training in manual labor. The result is that it becomes a difficult question to define the functions of a high school. This much seems clear to me: that the high school, as at present organized, is a provisional arrangement.
When American communities throughout the Atlantic border and Mississippi valley become fixed and staple in their composition, and approach in character, somewhat, the communities of the Old World, then will come about a differentiation of schools. We will then have the free public classical preparatory school for college; similar preparatory schools for scientific schools, for the arts, and for business.
For the present, the high school is both a “fitting” and a “finishing” school, and in most places a school for both sexes. Naturally, the course of study must be shaped to serve in some fashion these varied purposes, and always to accommodate itself to both male and female minds. With so many various ideas afloat in the community as to the function of the high school, it is plain that the character and quantity of the work done there will not be so good as would be the case were all of one mind. Nor ought it to be wondered at that in trying to serve so many masters the high school is inclined to love some one, and to neglect, perhaps even ignore, all others. The chief moral support of the high school comes from those who have graduated from our colleges, and more especially from our classical colleges. The majority of its other friends would have it serve temporary needs according to the changing wants of the community. Education, as an end in itself, school training from the standpoint of the highest service to be rendered to ourselves and fellows, is not a factor in swaying the average citizen in voting money for the support of high schools. With him the lower and more universal motive, What is all this worth to me as a money-making machine? is far more powerful and constraining. In directing and moulding the work of our high schools, collegebred men have until recent years been all-powerful. The reason is, they had a definite purpose and end in view. With others, this was in general not the case. The college-bred men received from the community a certain recognition, perhaps at all times not well founded, as better able to deal with school problems than men brought up in the school of the world. Certainly these men came to the front and shaped the work of the schools. Other collegebred men took charge of the schools. None better than they could be found. Quite naturally the course of study of our high schools came to be entirely modeled on the demands made by colleges for admission to the classical course. Communities grumbled under the infliction. The dislike for the classics vained ground and rooted itself in the community because it was something forced upon them against their will. The attendance upon high schools diminished, just as it did in our colleges. Gradually our colleges widened their doors, became more liberal in their courses of study, offered electives, established scientific schools, and in various ways exhibited a more or less hearty acquiescence in the doctrine that a man may become educated and yet be unacquainted with the classics.
To properly prepare pupils for the new courses of study open to them in our colleges, the high school was forced to find teachers for the sciences thorough in their knowledge and skilled in the teaching of the natural sci
The schools again filled with pupils, and broader and more liberal provisions were made for their support. The teachers of science became apostles of dissent, and gradually there has grown up within the schools a sentiment opposed to the domination hitherto exercised by the classics. The friends of classical education have, it seems to me, acted very unwisely. Instead of seeking to come to some adjustment with the advocates of the sciences, instead of recognizing that the world does move, and that the nineteenth century has before it school problems and school work unknown to the eighteenth, for which adequate provision must be made, the position occupied by the advocates of the classics has rather been one of conscious infallibility. This is the only path to an education, the only road to intellectual enlightenment. All others are a deception and a snare.
Thus the friends of the classics seemed to say. In consequence, the high school to-day is drawn in two directions, seeking to do all that the classical colleges demand as a preparation
in Latin and Greek, and striving on the other hand to maintain its hold upon the people whom it seeks to serve by presenting a liberal course of study in the sciences.
Thirty years ago the instruction in natural sciences in our high schools was as nebulous and infinitesimal in character as the cosmic dust said to permeate space. It was a vague, indefinite something, calculated to increase our awe and superstitious reverence.
Things have changed for the better, and the student in physics in our modern high school is likely to know enough of electricity to enable him to fit up an electric door-bell. With this change in the study of the sciences has also come about some change in the study of the classics. This has not been so much in the amount required by the colleges to be read — (in this respect colleges have been slow to move) — but in the thoroughness of the preparation, I believe that the preparation in Latin was far better thirty years ago than it is now. Perhaps this belief may be largely due to a kind of mental mirage. The past of which we were a part always seems to us much larger than the present field, where we are spectators and a new generation do the battling. Let us see what are the demands made by the classical colleges of to-day. I quote from the Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Hamilton College, V. Y., for 1887–88, page 15, as a type of a good classical college:
* Candidates for the Freshman class are examined in the following books and subjects or their equivalents: Latin - - Cæsar's Commentaries, four books; Virgil's Eneid, six books, with prosody: six of Cicero's Orations; Sallust's Catiline and Sallust's Jugurthine War or Virgil's Eclogues: with the Latin Grammar and twelve chapters of Allen & Greenough's Latin Prose Composition. Candidates will also be examined in Ancient Geography and in Greek and Roman Antiquities."
Thirty years ago these would have been regarded as very reasonable demands. It may be that there are some schools so closely following the course of study of a past generation, or with so large a teaching force and consequent differentiation of work, that these may be to them very reasonable demands to-day. Thinking, however, of the condition of the smaller high schools, and speaking for myself, these demands seem to me to be too great to allow thorough work to be done. They require so much biting off to be done that little time is left for digestion. So much must be read, and so many other things are to be studied, that little time is left for either pupil or teacher to deal with close study of grammatical forms. In proof of this I would point to the very little true philological work done in the average high school. If less in amount were demanded by the colleges a better quality of work could be done by the school and could be insisted upon by the colleges. This, it seems to me, would be an improvement in every way. As far as the boasted disciplinary influence of the classics is concerned, the pupil of the high school who did not purpose going to college might then have some of this extended to him, and in addition it would diminish the number of mere memorizers, intellectual polyps, who vex the entering classes of our colleges, and substitute young men strong in mental power. As to methods of teaching, I am strongly of the conviction that the so-called natural and inductive methods of making easy the first year in Latin, this royal road through Latin grammar, proves in the long run to be a very hard road to travel; and that there has been no positive improvement made over the old way of thoroughly learning the main matter in the Latin grammar. I know that some will say that this way is only good in the same sense that certain remedies are warranted to cure where they don't kill. I am almost willing to grant this. Bear in mind that we are speaking of the high school as a fitting-school, and it is the part of a fitting-school to eliminate the weak, who never will be strong, from those who with proper drill will become strong. The demands in Greek, quoting from the same catalogue of Hamilton College, are as follows:
“Greek: Xenophon's Anabasis, three books; Homer's Iliad, two books: AllenHadley's or Goodwin's Greek Grammar; Jones's Greek Composition, twenty chapters."
These seem certainly far more reasonable, and yet it is difficult throughout the Northwest to create in pupils in high schools any desire to study Greek. Many school boards make no provision for it whatever, and others put it in their course of study as an elective. Of the two languages, Latin or Greek, the latter is not only more beautiful, but more regular and philosophical. Looked at from the standpoint of mental gymnastics, Greek is a more valuable study than Latin. I heartily wish it were possible to bring about a revival in the study of Greek in our high schools, though I am afraid that until a change comes over the spirit of the dreams of those who shape the teaching in our colleges, until there will be somewhat more of philology and perhaps less of mere translation of texts in our colleges, such a revival will not be likely.
As to mathematics, most high schools, worthy of the name, offer more than the average college demands. Little need be said of this subject, therefore, except that incidentally it may be noted that in a subject like mathematics, where the community and the college have interests in common, there is no difficulty for the high school to meet all requirements. Since colleges have begun to offer more liberal courses of study the modern languages have been added to the college curriculum, and a certain amount of preparation has been demanded in either German or French, rarely in both. Throughout the northwest, German is more popular than French, and high schools have no difficulty in complying with the two years' easy work demanded. This study as a rule is popular in the schools, although, as far as my experience goes, is not so often well provided for, either in the high school or in college, as to teachers. And now as to English. In view of the demands made by our colleges upon the high schools in Latin and German, we have reason to be lieve that the demands in English will be very great and that the high school will be compelled to make very liberal allowance of time and teaching-force to meet these requirements. In view of its importance in any scheme of cul
ture, whatever subject be slighted this one subject certainly will be carefully and thoroughly protected in its interests. Thus a foreigner might think. Let us see what one of the largest of the universities of this country demands as preparation in English of those about to enter the freshman class as candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts. I quote from pages 34 and 35 of the Calendar of the University of Michigan, 1889-90:
"FOR THE DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF ARTS. Candidates will be examined in the following subjects:
1. English Language, Composition, and Rhetoric. The examination will be as follows:
“(a) A grammatical and rhetorical analysis of short selections in prose and poetry. The rhetorical analysis will be confined chiefly to the meanings and forms of words, sentential structure, paragraphing, and figures of speech.
"(b) An essay of not less than two pages (foolscap), correct in spelling, punctuation, capital letters, grammar, sentential structure, and paragraphing. The subject for 1890 will be taken from the following works, with the substance of which -- the plots, incidents, characters, etc.,-- it is expected that the student will, by careful reading, thoroughly familiarize himself: Shakespeare's As You Like It; Scott's Guy Mannering; Kingsley's Hypatia. The subjects for 1891 will be taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth; Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield; Scott's Old Mortality; Longfellow's Hyperion. Equivalents of these will, of course, be accepted.
“For securing the proper preparation, the following course is recommended: 1. A few lessons and constant practice in the proper use of the Unabridged Dictionaries. 2. A review of the elements of English Grammar during the last years of the preparatory course. 3. Daily recitations for at least one term in some such work as D. J. Hill's Elements of Rhetoric and Composition, or A. S. Hill's Principles of Rhetoric. 4. A careful reading of one of Shakespeare's plays, in an annotated edition, as Hudson's, Rolfe's, Meiklejohn's, or one of the Clarendon Press series. 5. Weekly exercises in original composition, for at least two years.
**A large portion of those who seek admission to the University are found to be very deficient in their preparation in English. It is on every account desirable that such deficiency be removed as far and as fast as possible, and that the requirements in English for admission to the University be enlarged."
Very few schools do more than this, and, as a result, the graduate who does not expect to enter college leaves the high school with a handful of husks as all that the school has to offer him in English literature.
Of English before the days of Shakespeare, of Chaucer and of the days before Chaucer, of Anglo-Saxon, what can be said? Why, so few colleges offer opportunities of study in this direction that it is not surprising that high schools do nothing. Those who would like to do something do nothing, because it is so difficult to find teachers competent to give instruction; and as for the others, they do nothing because they do not know that there is anything to be done. There are some schools, even in our smaller towns, which, knowing the better, strive toward it. One such devotes the first two years to English composition and rhetoric with daily recitations, and numberless composition exercises, and a daily recitation during the last two years of the course to English literature. That the study of English literature becomes to the pupil in this school a labor of love; that they look forward to it as the summation of their work, and seem