Page images

IV. My text to-night has been this, that God hath given us many masters, each of whom represents the emphasis of some phase of man's life, and all of whom are necessary for the education of our race. Of course, it is impossible for us to have in every schoolroom a Goethe, who was a practical road-builder, a scientist whom scientists recognize as such, a philosopher by right of original insight, and a poet who sang free as the voice of spring. Not one in a hundred years is of Goethe's stature. It may be that only one of Goethe's stature can be a whole man, with every faculty alive and every faculty the stronger because the others are alive. It may be that you and I can serve our race best by being fragments, specialists in art, science, philosophy, or business. I do not know. I cannot tell. But if you and I who have charge of the youth; if we professionals, for the sake of a mechanical consistency, for the sake of a little system, stand between the children and any light that God hath given, how shall we measure the largeness of our offense and of their calamity?




To have lived in the common school as a pupil and a teacher throughout nearly the entire time which marks its establishment, its growth, and development is a beneficent compensation for growing old. No other institution established by man ever carried with it such possibilities for human weal. It is an absolutely democratic institution; it sprang from the brain and heart of a people, and is, in the truest sense, of the people, for the people, and by the people. Without precedent, it established a precedent. It blazed its own path without guide or compass. It marched, met, and overcame every obstruction, met and led by the sturdy common sense of the people.

On the threshold of a new century it is well to consider some of the most obvious signs of its progress. As a sign of professional growth, ten times as many books upon education have been published in English during the past twenty years than were ever previously published in the same language. Second, the establishment of normal schools. Beginning with the first crude attempt, near the old battle ground of Lexington, in 1839, normal schools have steadily increased all over the United States. Third, the founding of chairs of pedagogics in universities and colleges has been the mark of recognition by higher institutions of learning of the fact that there is a science of education and an art of teaching. Fourth, a few of the most prominent colleges and universities have begun to take a deep and profound interest in the common school, have emphasized the vital importance of primary education, and reach a strong and helpful hand to those who are struggling with its serious problems. Fifth, the subject matter or conditions for education have been enhanced by the discoveries in science, the reformation of history, and the production of an immense amount of pure and educative literature. These results, far reaching as they are, are dominated by others yet more satisfactory and prophetic. Chief among these indications I will place the fact that many educators have arrived at that stage of growth in which they heartily and cordially agree to disagree. In the early days of our common school civilization, principles and methods seemed to be incarnated. One hesitated to attack a method or principle in vogue else he should cause some heart that beat behind the incorporated method to bleed. Methods and principles—thank God! for the children's sake—are fast becoming impersonal; subjects for careful scrutiny and close criticism. The solid and stolid obstructions of fixedness, of dogmas, have, in part, broken away. The teacher is in touch with the spirit of the age--the spirit which pervades all other sciences—"Ewiges Werden," the "everlasting becoming." No syndicate of education to-day can lay a steel track, put on its cars, give imperative orders to its conductors, and proclaim "The Royal Road to Learning." All pronunciamentos in education, all discussions, courses of study and programs should be marked, “For this day only.” This program is an adaptation to present conditionssimply tentative, opening the way to better things. All investigations, all discussions, are but steps on the way. He who truly faces the question of education, faces infinity; the work of to-day is solely a means of movement to better work to-morrow. Although abstract philosophy may lay down a few eternal principles, mixed with much that is perishable, it cannot reach or even suggest the ultimate in methods or the extent to which the art of teaching may reach forward. To hold fast to dogma is to be rooted in tradition. The blind obedience to any school of pedagogics or implicit following of leaders has no longer the charm of loyalty nor arouses the enthusiasm of the patriot. Mere discipleship closes the way to progress, instead of opening it.

Freebel, the divinely inspired educator of the nineteenth century, has interpreted the words of the Master, “The letter killeth, but the spirit maketh alive," in these words:

“Again, a life whose ideal value has been perfectly established in experience never aims to serve as model in its form, but only in its essence, in its spirit. It is the greatest mistake to suppose that spiritual perfection can serve as a model in its form. This accounts for the common experience, that the taking of such external manifestations of perfection as examples, instead of elevating mankind, checks-nay, represses-its development.

"Jesus himself, therefore, in his life and in his teachings, constantly opposed the imitation of external perfection. Only spiritual, striving, living perfection is to be held fast as an ideal; on the other hand, its external manifestation—its form-should not be limited. The highest and most perfect life which we, as Christians, behold in Jesus—the highest known to mankind—is a life which found the primordial and ultimate reason of its existence clearly and distinctly in its own being; a life which, in accordance with the eternal law, came from the eternally creating All-Life, self-acting and self-poised. This highest eternally perfect life itself would have each human being again become a similar image of the eternal ideal, so that each again might become a similar ideal for himself and others. It would have each human being develop from within, self-active and free, in accordance with the eternal law. This is, indeed, the problem and the aim of all education in instruction and training; there can and should be no other. We see, then, that even the eternal ideal is fol. lowing, passive, in its requirements concerning the form of being."

Probably from no other source has the common school of America received so much of benefit and inspiration as from the kindergarten and its founder. It has brought new life and new light to the teacher. But the danger of the kindergarten is plainly marked out by the words of Froebel above quoted. That which seriously threatens the onward movement of its young and glorious life is implicit discipleship—the mere patterning or imitation of method without the divine spirit of constant and persistent investigation. It was an imperative necessity for Freebel, as for any other founder of a system, to have a carefully detailed method; but had Freebel lived until to-day, he would have inevitably developed that method steadily out of itself into something higher and better.

Next to the incoming of Frobel's system of education may be placed the doctrine and methods of Herbart, worked out by his great disciples, Ziller, Stov, and Rein, and brought to America by some of our most thoughtful educators. The one distinguishing feature in the Herbartian pedagogics is movement, and movement ahead. When any one of the many followers of Herbart says, “I am a Herbartian, pure and simple; I adhere to his doctrine and his doctrine alone,” he simply stultifies himself. In education, as in science, the one mode of motion is personal investigation; the eternal becoming; the beginning, not the closing of the account—the initial steps of a movement ending only in infinity. That many teachers are to-day eager and earnest students of the doctrine of both Herbart and Freebel is one of the most healthful and promising signs of the times. The day of superficial and contemptuous denial is fast passing away; the day when ridicule can keep otherwise thoughtful students of education from investigating that which history has brought them is also passing away.

The conclusion reached by Herbart in regard to Pestalozzi may be truthfully made in regard to all educators of the past and present. He says the advantage of Pestalozzi's method lies, not in the means, the devices, or the material which he offered for education, but that Pestalozzi himself more bravely, more courageously, and more zealously than all the earlier teachers appreciated the duty to develop the mind and soul of the child. The one true element which exalted him was a divine zeal to know the child and to present conditions for his growth. No one can understand and appreciate Pestalozzi, Frebel, or Herbart unless they come in touch with that earnest, indefatigable, loving spirit, controlled by a mighty desire to do something better for the children, which dominated all in common. Method and principle is always relatively crude; but the spirit was there—the love without which the giver were nothing. From this standpoint of Herbart we can judge of the educators of the past and present. We can see that nothing is ever fully worked out; that every method, every device, every course of study, every program, every exposition of principles is capable of infinite improvement. Seizing upon a mere detail, or device, or method, looking upon the crude outcome of an earnest but perhaps over-zealous spirit, and judging the worth of a teacher or doctrine from such a standpoint, is worthy only of a pedant or a dog. matist.

To sum up, the highest and best outcome in the progress of education is not to be found in the results of the schoolroom, in revised courses of study, or in the application of this or that theory of education. Faith in the future of the common school has a safe and sure foundation in the attitude of the few and ever-increasing number of thoughtful, earnest, scientific students of education; students who, open and ready to accept all the past has to bring, at the same time have a profound faith that there is no abiding in the onward march toward higher and better things.

Efforts are becoming more and more genuine; quackery is at a discount, and warmed-over devices ages old are not so easily foisted upon untrained teachers. In a word, a discovery in education to-day corresponds to that of chemistry, physics, and geology, with one ex

ception—it cannot so easily function itself. The time is at hand, however, when it will be possible for all discoveries in education to be put into one treasure-house for common use, that every teacher who is working along original lines can be put in touch with all genuine teachers and in turn receive the benefit of their studies. It takes less and less time in these days for a blessing to reach the soul of the child. Young teachers of to-day can scarcely appreciate what this means. Only those who have lived in the struggle comprehend

In what a forge and what a heat

Were shaped the anchor of our hope. In the very nature of progress, the well-known methods of scientists the world over must soon become the methods of the teacher, A discovery in any science-chemistry, physics, or geology-soon becomes the property of every other science. It is heralded in the news. papers; it is open to students and to the public generally. Every schoolroom will be a laboratory in which scientific investigations shall be made, and whose results shall be given to all teachers.

The one central feature, and indeed the most encouraging one, is the attitude of many teachers towards the discovery of truth. Shorn of all narrowing prejudices, all implicit beliefs in dogmas, there are many teachers to-day ready to test anew the value of the old, and, with a profound faith in human possibilities, are ready to surrender any predilection and move to higher planes. I would not assert that these teachers are in the majority, but still there is many a child garden on our continent in which original discovery is fostered and nourished, and where teachers have begun to feel their true dignity and the divinity of their art. The crying need of the times is thoughtful, persistent, honest, earnest, courageous students; students of the history of education, of psychology, of pedagogy, of subject matter, and of actual work done in the schoolroom. Implicit faith in worn-out theories and cold platitudes of rehashed philosophy is becoming less and less. The teacher has begun to feel that he marches along the infinite line of unrealized possibilities. The teacher is beginning to take his place with the true scientist, and to bring all other knowl. edge to bear upon the central thing, the child, and to study the conditions of his highest growth and development. The teachers of today, too, deeply realize that most human beings are simply specimens of arrested development; that the schools of the twentieth century must work out every socialistic problem which the nineteenth has presented.

Psychology in the past has had its full share in the pedantry and dogmatism that have marked the other sciences. It was once buried in an abstruse and ambiguous terminology. To Herbart, his co

« PreviousContinue »