Page images
PDF
EPUB

DEPARTMENT OF NORMAL SCHOOLS.

SECRETARY'S MINUTES.

FIRST SESSION.

ASSEMBLY Room, St. Paul, Minx., July 9, 1890. The meeting was called to order at 3 P. M. by the President, W. W. Parsons, of Indiana, who delivered the annual address.

Papers were then read by F. Louis Soldan, St. Louis, on “Educational Ideas in Dickens's Novels," and by Miss Isabel Lawrence, St. Cloud, Minnesota, on “American School Branches from a Professional Point of View.”

The President then announced as a committee on nomination of officers for the ensuing year, Joseph Baldwin, of Texas; H. H. Seerley, of Iowa; and L. C. Lord, of Minnesota.

The Department then adjourned.

SECOND SESSION.- JULY 10.

on

The Department met at 3 P. M., with the President in the chair.

On motion, the discussion on the subjects presented the previous day was dispensed with.

Dr. W. T. Harris then delivered a talk on “The Difference between Normal-School and High-School Methods.” President A. R. Taylor, of Kansas, read a paper

Recitation Estimates." The report of the committee, appointed at Nashville, to continue the subject of "Pedagogical Inquiry in Public Schools," was submitted through its chairman, President T. J. Gray, of Minnesota. The report of the Committee on Nominations was then made, as follows:

B. A. Hinsdale, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Vice-President --G. L. Osborne, Missouri.
Secretary --- Isabel Lawrence, St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The Secretary was instructed to cast the ballot of the Department for the nominees. The Department then adjourned.

JOHN L. LAMPSON, Secretary.

President

[blocks in formation]

A course of study is a means to an end. It presupposes on the one hand certain existing conditions, and on the other, a prescribed object to be accomplished. The curriculum is determined by these two factors -- the degree of maturity, the ability, the attainments of those presenting themselves for admission, and the special end it is designed to bring about or promote. It is manifest that these are the two important and immediate considerations which determine the course of study in both the general school and the school for a special or technical training.

Assuming that the normal-school course is to be organized in the light mainly of these two considerations, it will be well to direct attention to each for a few moments.

As it was found impracticable to gather trustworthy statistics from a wide field, I will state the conditions as they exist in my own State — Indiana. Probably these will be found to represent substantially the conditions under which the majority of the normal schools of the United States are conducting their work.

The average age of students at the time of entering is a little more than twenty years. About twenty-two per cent. of the number are graduates of high schools and academies that maintain a three- or a four-years course beyond the work of the town and city grade schools. A very few are college graduates. Ten per cent. more have had from one to two years in the high school. From sixty to sixty-five per cent. of the entire number have only such scholastic attainments as are given by the country district school or the town or city graded school, with some enlargement and deepening of this in most cases by private study. Perhaps one-half of the students in attendance at any time are teachers of more or less experience. Many have taught several years. As a class, they are plain, earnest, studious people, and are in the main self-supporting. They have habits of industry, attention and perseverance, and they know the value of time and opportunity. These are the people whom the normal school is to prepare to be teachers. It must be clear that so long as the normal school is obliged to admit as its students persons having only meager attainments, its course of study must be adapted to the needs of this class.

Let the aim of this class of schools be stated in a word. As the normal schools of the United States are constituted and conducted, so far as I am able to learn, they confine and devote their attention to the preparation of teachers, and for teaching in the elementary and secondary schools. The normal school is not a school for general education, training and culture, for their own sake. It is a professional school. It seeks to confer a certain knowledge, skill and ability necessary to the rational practice of an art. That it may so do its particular work as to give a most valuable general training, probably few would deny; nay, a thoroughly rational study of the problem of education in its various phases must result in an efficient mental training: but this is an incident, not the controlling aim of the process. To be sure, there are not wanting persons who maintain that the normal school has no particular function - that it has no integral and organic place in a system of education. These hold that the work of the normal school, in so far as it is efficacious and valuable, is essentially a duplication of that of the high school, the academy, or the college. It lies without the scope of the present discussion to consider this objection. We may leave this class to that educating influence which a great popular consciousness and a world movement always exercise at last on the opposing individual. The world is committed to the doctrine of a professional education for teachers. The normal school has a problem of its own. It is giving its attention and energy to a valid phase of the educational question.

It may be remarked, that in stating the fact that, as normal schools are now organized in this country, they do not prepare teachers for the college and university, it is not conceded that there is no need for such professional training for the college or university professor. On the contrary, if this question were under consideration, it would be held that one of the urgent needs of the higher education to-day is a more thorough understanding of the history and philosophy of education by those who are conducting its work.

Holding in mind the qualifications of those who make up the great body of normal students, and remembering that the object of the normal school is to prepare teachers for the country, town, and city grade schools, and for the high schools, we ask, what should be the distinctive features of the course of study in the normal school? The question is not, What constitutes an ideal course of study for a normal school? but, Under the conditions described, what means are best adapted to the end sought?

It will be convenient to conduct the discussion to be made, by using terms already current, and somewhat settled in meaning-academic, professional. We

may first consider the course with reference to what is usually denoted the academic phases of it.

The first thing to be noted is, that the term academic as ordinarily employed in this connection is very misleading. The unthinking observer notices that the normal school, the academy, and the high school have many things in

He sees physiology, literature and geometry in each of these courses, and infers that the normal school gives instruction in these subjects substantially like that of the others. This is wholly inconclusive. The high school and the academy teach these subjects as instruments of general education. The student pursues them as means of self-culture. His object is, so to study these subjects as to acquire by this means the largest and most efficient culture of his own faculties. The subject is not exclusively academic, but the student pursues it in the academic spirit and for academic ends — for selfculture. In the normal school this is all changed. The primary aim is not self-culture, (may not the fact that the aim is disinterested and unselfish really make the subject more truly educative to the self ?) but to acquire such knowledge of the subject as will enable one to wield it as an instrument in the education of others. This does not ignore the academic aspects of the subject, but adds a most important something to these. It first gives the ordinary general knowledge of the subject; the second gives a teacher's knowledge of the subject. The normal school, therefore, gives no strictly and exclusively academic instruction. It is not inapt to say that there is high-school geometry, and there is normal-school geometry. Botany in the academy is one thing; it is in the normal school, in essential particulars, a different thing. The same field of subject-matter, so far as the facts and generalizations constituting the subject are concerned, may be investigated: but they are investigated in a different spirit, and for a different purpose. (an we make this distinction clearer?

common.

A subject of study, as arithmetic, physiology, or history, consists of a large body of facts, particular and general — built together in such form as to show their organic connections, and to reveal the general truths which lie hidden in these facts. An intelligent study of the subject for any purpose will lead to the mastery of this subject matter thus organized. It will require the student to think these facts and generalizations, and to see all parts and phases of the subject in their proper relations, to constitute an orderly branch of knowledge. The normal student and the high-school student must alike master this subject matter by seeing its inherent order and method, and we may admit that there is equal necessity for both seeing it; though perhaps, as matter of fact, the normal school lays the more stress on this. But the normal student is not only to think the facts and generalizations in their inherent relations and inter-relations, but he is at the same time to think bis thinking of these. He not only performs the mental activities necessary to seize this subject-matter, but the very processes by which he does this are objects of most attentive consideration. He sees that these are the necessary activities of the mind in acquiring this subject matter. He comes to know this subject matter as product of mind-activity. To the act of knowing is added an act of introspection, and it is seen that there are necessary conditions of the act, and that only when these are supplied does the act mature into its proper product. It will hardly be denied that, if a given field of knowledge is to be acquired by a student, that person will be the best fitted to direct the process of acqui

sition who knows what mental activities must be performed, and under what conditions the processes will mature their legitimate products. An illustration may make this difference apparent. The point to be mastered is, that every sentence contains certain main elements bearing a definite relation to one another. The school for general training would show that the sentence has its meaning in the fact that it expresses a thought or judgment; it would lead the pupil to see, by reflection, illustration, and example, that a judgment has a subject and a predicate, and that the perception of a relation between these completes this product. It would satisfy itself that the student had mastered the nature of the thought as a means of understanding the nature of the sentence, and would then be ready for an advance point. Now the normal school would do all this with equal thoroughness and completeness, and, in addition, would lead the pupil to a consciousness of his own mental procedure in acquiring this knowledge, and moreover to a rational verification of this as the true procedure in the premises. In the high school or academy one of the vital organs is the subject of investigation. This organ from a lower animal is put on the dissecting-table, and its anatomy is revealed by the process of dissection. The microscope also reveals its histological structure. The normal school would do this, and in addition would make the pupil strongly conscious of this as the true method of making these acquisitions. It would require him to justify, on psychological grounds, his procedure as a student. The high school wishes the pupil to acquire a certain notion or concept. By definition, illustration, and concrete example, it seeks to effect its object. The normal school requires the pupil to reflect on the means he employs to acquire this notion, and to see that the steps taken are psychologically the necessary steps.

Thus, one who is preparing to teach the subject he is now mastering, adds a phase of reflection at every point, wholly unnecessary to the mastery of it, as a means of self-culture for its own sake. He is acquiring a teacher's knowledge of the subject.

It may be objected that the normal student is not mature and reflective enough to add this introspective act at every step. The answer is, that until he is able to begin to do this, he is not prepared to engage in the professional study of the normal-school curriculum. And here, I incline to believe, is the true test of qualifications for admission to the normal school. Not that the applicant has a fair or even a liberal general knowledge of subjects, but that he is capable of making this reflective or introspective study of the subjects in the normal-school course.

Strong dissent is here implied from that view which would have the person preparing for the vocation of teaching first study a large range of subjects, that is, acquire a large scholarship in the general school, and then come to the normal school for what is called a professional training. The normal school does not admit that any study of a subject in the general school does away with the necessity for a rethinking of it in its main features and for the pur

« PreviousContinue »