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investigations as typical of many. There was a very good one later on errors of grammar.
Now I am not going to burden you with the technical details of the way
the new idea has worked out, painfully, expensively, over a period of years. I feel proud of the fact that I myself put over $3,000 into pure investigation without seeing where I was coming out; but now it begins to look as if it were the best investment I ever made in my whole life.
There is space only for me to tell something about the practical working system which I am now using in a correspondence course sent out from Rochester, N. Y., the actual practical results of which far surpass even my own dreams. The class of people who are taking this course is the most miscellaneous I ever saw in my life, including Harvard students at Harvard, Harvard graduates in businesss, a lady of 80, a girl of 15, women who are wives at home, trained nurses, business managers, and their clerks and their stenographers. It is just as motley a crew as any or all of you find yourselves faced with, in any or all
The only thing in the minds of these people is a suspicion that they don't spell, punctuate or use words correctly, and make bad breaks in grammar when they open their mouths. I say they have only a suspicion. In that I am more fortunate than you often are, for I know very well that many of your pupils haven't even got a suspicion. But a suspicion is a fleeting thing, and if it isn't promptly confirmed it flies away and the old, self-satisfied assurance returns. Until that assurance is knocked on the head with a blackjack, there is no hope for either me or you to do any real teaching of English. So I start my course with psychological tests on spelling, punctuation, grammar and letter-writing, which are so short they can be performed in five to fifteen minutesand so simple in plan that they can be given by an ordinary adult student to himself, he can correct his own paper in five minutes more by the facsimile key or test sheet marked in my own handwriting engraved in facsimile. The essence of this test is that every point is so ordinary and simple that every person who takes the test, even children in the eighth grade, will confess that there is not a point in it which they ought not to know, and usually they think they do know as they prepare the test paper. When they look at the key and see that they do not agree with me, they feel sure I have made a mistake. Investigation, however, convinces them that I am right. If you have read Freud's Introduction to Psycho-analysis you will know what I mean by saying I have brought the error out of the unconscious and made it conscious, and in doing that I have taken the first step toward ending this mental disease, for that is what these ingrained bad habits are, and they can be treated only by the technic which is used with certain cases of mental derangement, namely the very simple method of making the unconscious conscious. You can tell a pupil that a certain thing is wrong, and you can show him how it does not conform to the rule, and yet as Freud points out in his very different connection, you have not really made the error conscious. I have seen children studying spelling earnestly and laboriously, and as I listened to the half-articulated murmur of their lips I have heard them saying the wrong letters, I have given them the spelling letter by letter and have seen them write down the wrong letters with which they were obsessed. Yet I have seen those very same pupils learn the spelling of those words in half an hour by the simple method of copying them from a book and checking them back, letter by letter. The mechanical checking of the letters, after the mechanical copying of them from the book, slowly brings the unconscious into the field of the conscious, but of course the process had to be repeated many times with some words, while others would be learned in copying once or twice.
I had been experimenting with these tests for some time when I was asked to teach English and commercial subjects in a private school where I had complete freedom to do as I liked, using my own texts and methods. At the same time the report of the committee of the N. E. A. fell into my hands. The school had the most unruly lot of boys I ever saw in my life or hope ever to see and with it all many of them were almost mentally defective. Many of them had been expelled from all their home schools and were sent to this school as a last resort. When I started in I thought I would be conservative and safe, and teach English just the way you teach it, using the superior" Cody textbooks. I soon found I had in my books the right things for them to learn, but certainly far from the right methods by which to teach them. The natural savage mind simply rebelled at such teaching. But when I gave the tests one day the pandemonium stopped completely, so you could have heard a pin drop. Afterwards I went into numerous public school classes of large size where young teachers were having a terrible time with discipline, and I never saw the time in a single instance where a test did not reduce the class to perfect order in two minutes. Of course the teachers naturally said, “Why don't you have a test every day ?” That's what my new course in English is. It is merely a repetition of the simple process of raising the unconscious error into consciousness, with all the speed and natural ease which the technic of psychological tests has developed. The tests had to be given with great speed or they couldn't be given in business offices to employees whose time was worth fifty cents to two dollars an hour, so I had studied mechanical speed in execution, and I found the elimination of the mechanical drudgery of copying and writing out lessons was very grateful to the pupils, and one principal source of satisfaction.
The next step followed with perfect naturalness. When you've taken a test that makes possible the answering of as many as fifty questions in ten or fifteen minutes, on which perhaps five points or perhaps forty points are errors in the unconscious mind, there is never the slightest question that every pupil wants to master every point on which he becomes suddenly conscious of weakness. There is some compulsion in his nature to do it. A series of daily tests ranging over the field of English that needs to be mastered, of course brings into consciousness as errors every point which each pupil has wrong in his unconscious mind. These points are widely different. One has one bad habit and another has another, in the most astounding variety. But all that was needed in conjunction with the test was a little recording system by which each pupil was given a permanent record of each error he had made. That was his individual assignment for study, so he never studied anything except what he needed to study, and there was nothing which he did not have a natural desire to master. I was fortunate enough to get a patent on the recording system, and incidentally I may remark that it is only recently that the patent office has been liberal minded enought to grant patents to educators on what are in effect methods of teaching, provided there is some slight mechanical structure. A relatively large number of these patents have been held invalid by the courts, but some of them have been maintained and the patent office is very much interested in helping to perfect and maintain patents of this type. I get this at first hand from the patent examiner who is in charge of educational devices, who talked with me for a couple of hours.
You will probably wonder how the needs of the pupil who makes two mistakes out of fifty chances are reconciled with the needs of the pupil who makes forty mistakes on the same test. They seem to be miles apart. The usual method is to average their requirements to about the needs of say the pupil who makes twenty-one errors. The one who makes forty but masters only twenty still has twenty against him, and so never gets above the level of the average of the class at the start-in short, he never "passes” the subject at all, although he may actually learn twice as much as the average person in the class. And the one who makes but two mistakes has so much waste time on his hands that very likely he lets loose quietly no end of mischief in the class merely because he has too much vitality to do nothing, and there is nothing else for him to do but plan mischief. Or if he is not mischievious he dulls his brain into insensibility and learns a large number of fresh errors through conscientiously studying over all the things he knows, which have long since been tucked away securely in his unconscious mind. When he has brought them out into the conscious mind with the conscientious feeling that he must do something with them, he naturally does the one thing that is left for him to do, learns to do the things wrong. The mischievous boy who does not waste his time studying that which he knows quite well already is much wiser than the conscientious cub who faithfully teaches himself the wrong thing.
I got my idea of the solution of this question from Meumann's very interesting book on the Psychology of Learning. He demonstrates from laboratory psychological experiments that the quickest and easiest way to memorize a poem, for example, is not to take one line and one stanza at a time and study that single element intensely till it has been mastered, but to go over the whole as a whole many times, checking up each time by a sort of self test to see what parts have been learned and what parts still escape. This teaches the sense for the whole, which cannot be learned by intense study of the parts, and the special study comes to be centered on those words or phrases which give special difficulty and so demand more intense effort. I took a class of stenographers at Mandel Brothers in Chicago-thirty girls of the type you are turning out of your schools all the time. On the opening test the best made about 90%, the poorest 40%, with an average of 70%, which I have found to correspond to one or two years in the high school, and this proved to be quite exactly the degree of general education these girls had had. I gave them eight lessons, and then gave them a blanket test on the parts they had been over. The 90 percenters had reached 100%, and the 40 percenters had got up around 60% -the poor ones quite often do the best, and then the best ones come next, I find. I had gone over the work just as fast as I could. It was the proper speed for the best to make 100%. The poorest had got a notch higher, and needed to turn right around and go over the same exercises again. As they had a record of all the points they would miss before study, there was no waste of time in giving the opening tests. I paired them off according to standing and made them quiz each other individually on those points they had missed, or I induced the bright ones to become teachers of the dull ones through a system of teams organized so that each team had its share of the best and also of the poorest, and the best as leaders naturally were personally interested to coach the dullest so so that the team might make a showing.
Of course this paper has been devoted entirely to the subject of mastering the common fundamental points of spelling, grammar,