Page images
PDF
EPUB

book to memory. When he studies the text-book, he acquires his information simply by exercising his memory; in a scientific recitation, on the other hand, he is obliged to bring many of his faculties into play in order to accomplish his task.

A consideration of the reasons for the lack of professional strength in our country will now be in order. With a clear comprehension of the causes, the remedies will suggest themselves.

First, the demand for good teachers is very small, the conditions under which licenses are granted being exceedingly liberal. The management of the school system in our country being a purely local affair, it is entirely at the mercy of local politicians, who can raise or lower the standard at their pleasure. In perhaps the majority of instances, the teachers' examinations are of an order so low that a certificate can be earned by one who has enjoyed no more than a grammar school education, with or without a little extra coaching. In some localities, a high school education is required, and, in a few instances, appointments are given only to those who, in addition to a fair amount of scholarship, have obtained some professional training in a normal school. Of course, to guard against this extreme laxity, nothing would suffice short of the adoption of a national standard; which, however, for the present, cannot be expected.

In the places where trained teachers are sought, there is, of course, a demand for professional strength. But, is the teaching in these places markedly superior to that in other localities? The question, unfortunately, must be answered in the negative; for the degree of excellence in the teaching found in a given locality is by no means determined by the proportion of trained teachers in the corps. This condition of affairs, naturally, can be interpreted in only one way, namely, that the normal schools fail to graduate their pupils with the required foundation.

In thus throwing the blame for the lack of professional strength on the normal schools, I do not wish to imply that the work of those institutions has in no way proved valuable. On the contrary, it cannot be doubted, that, through their instrumentality, much has been done to spread the doctrine of scientific teaching and to imbue with professional spirit even many of those who have not had the advantage of a professional training. But, while, in the theory of education, the work of the professional schools has been very helpful, from the standpoint of practice they have, in my opinion, for the most part, proved unsuccessful.

That professional schools cannot be expected to turn out perfect practitioners is clear; but what we have a right to expect is, that their students will be graduated with a foundation that will enable them later to develop in the right direction. That this foundation, as a rule, is wanting, is proved by the fact to which I have already alluded, namely, that the quality of the teaching in a given locality is determined by local conditions rather than by the influence of normal school training. If the graduates of normal schools have not sufficient strength to rise above their immediate surroundings, and thus show their superiority over the untrained teachers, then something must be wrong with the institutions in which they received their special education.

That, in the vast majority of instances, the work of the practice departments has been unsatisfactory, is but the natural result of their organization. The fundamental error lies in the plain and simple fact, that, in the selection of teachers for these departments, the question of fitness receives far too little consideration. If the students are educated in the art of teaching by those who themselves have not the slightest knowledge of the art, how can we expect the results to be favorable?

In most cases, when a city training school is established, the main consideration appears to be to find a building easy of access, and containing a room in which the students may conveniently receive their instruction in theory. The absurdity lies in the fact, that, without further ado, the building in which the training class is placed is converted into a school of practice, and the regular staff of instructors are promoted to the rank of model teachers. The students now acquire the art of teaching by observing the work of these class teachers and instructing under their guidance. As the foundation for their future work is laid by what they here observe and do, is it difficult to account for the fact, that, after graduation, they cannot be readily distinguished from untrained teachers?

In the state normal schools a more direct effort is made to select specially qualified persons as model teachers. But even in these institutions, individuals really competent to instruct in the art of teaching are, comparatively speaking, very rarely found.

In view of these facts, it is clear that what is most needed in order that the professional strength of the teachers of our country may be increased is to establish, in connection with the normal schools, training departments, in which students may receive such practical instruction in the art of teaching that they will leave the institutions with a foundation that will enable them, in due course of time, to develop into scientific teachers.

DISCUSSION.

JAMES MCGINNIS, Superintendent of Schools, Owensboro, Ky.-I am disposed to agree with Dr. Rice's paper in the main points, and unreservedly so far as the spirit is concerned. He claims, and I believe, that much of our teaching in elementary work is lame and that we lean too much upon text-books. He does not so much propose to rob us of a crutch as to cure our laineness; not to do away with the text-book, but to give us teachers who shall make proper use of text-books.

What we need is a trained teaching force. We must both learn and know before we can teach, and then we must learn how to teach. As it now stands in thousands of cases over the land, our teachers have not gone beyond the grammar school themselves, and have not been trained; or, as set forth by Dr. Rice, they have been mistrained. I maintain that there should be increased facilities for normal training; that this training should be of the right kind; that none should be admitted to the normal school at all who have not at least passed through the secondary or high school. Our requirements are too low. We must raise the standard for the certification of teachers, which of itself will do much to bring about the desired training on the part of candidates for teaching.

I accept the doctor's definition of professional strength—that it is the ability to apply expert knowledge in practice. We must ask for knowledge, and for expert knowledge, and for a trained practitioner.

There is a fearful difference in teachers; between the empty teacher and the full teacher; the mechanical and the enthusiastic; the stagnant pool and the running brook. What we plead for is the teacher endowed, instructed, and trained. If there be a lack of such teachers now, the demand for them will bring them.

Dr. Rice has required in his paper that the text-book be used in its proper place. In a recitation, as in photography, there are three elements. There must be a clear image, a sensitive plate for it to fall upon, and a fixing process. There must be a clear bringing out of the subject to be taught, there must be keen, interested minds made ready to receive, and then there must be the fixing process of study and recitation. Dr. Rice claims that the use of the text-book is the third step in this process, and not the first as it is so often now. I agree with him.

NATURE STUDY AND LITERATURE.

BY MISS SARAH L. ARNOLD, SUPERVISOR OF SCHOOLS, BOSTON, MASS.

[ABSTRACT BY THE AUTHOR.]

The subject of my paper grew out of a conversation with a superintendent of schools, who remarked: “You believe in nature study, but I would teach literature instead.” “But can the one be substituted for the other?” questioned his listener. “Are not both necessary to the child, and is not each necessary to the other?” My purpose is to attempt to answer these questions, and in so doing I ask your attention to three lines of thought.

First-Nature study, as it should be presented in our primary schools, demands the aid of literature.

Second-Interpretation of literature involves knowledge of nature -full and sympathetic.

Third—The greatest good is derived from both nature study and literature when they are begun in childhood.

What benefits are derived from nature study? The question has often been discussed, and the advantages have been as often stated. The power of observation is developed; thought power is quickened; the child grows in accuracy of expression; he gains knowledge of fundamental facts of science; becomes interested in his environment. These results have repeatedly been emphasized by teachers of elementary science. But the young child should gain from nature study more thau thesea deep, full, abiding love of Nature,"communion with her visible forms," power to interpret her “various language," a reverent spirit, a talent for rejoicing in beauty. Soul and spirit, imagination and feeling, should develop with the seeing eye, the hear. ing ear, the thinking brain. The child should see in the flower, not merely a member of a certain family, marked by various deflections from the type; not alone a particular arrangement of floral or. gans, with peculiar form and coloring Science must give him this power and more; must lead him to recognize the marvelous adaptation of form and color to function-teaching him to lift up his thought to the Creator. But the poet must add his lesson-must teach the child how to “love the wood-rose and leave it on its stalk;' must lift the heart in reverence to the Maker of flower and bee; must help him to read the lessons written for his eternal welfare in flower and field. Only the poet and the child can truly read these lessons.

What grace and beauty, what dignity, are associated with the cornfield in the thought of one who knows and loves Whittier's "Corn Song," or Longfellow's “Blessing of the Cornfields!" What an inspiration enters into our lives when Holmes sings his "Chambered Nautilus," or Sidney Lanier pours forth the "Song of the Chattahoochee!" What message for you have the “lilies of the field,” the "tares and the wheat,” the "grain of mustard seed ?” Shall we not share with the children these priceless associations? Nature study is incomplete without the treasures of literature.

Again, any study of literature, however elementary, shows us that familiarity with nature is indispensable to intelligent reading. We easily recognize this truth when we turn to the poems of Nature. Tennyson's "Song of the Brook,” Bryant's "To a Waterfall,” Lowell's "Vision of Sir Launfal,” cannot reveal their exquisite beauty to one who has never loved a brook, or watched the flight of birds toward the sunset, or rejoiced in the treasures of the snow. But careful

study would convince us that our choicest figures of speech are largely borrowed from nature, as are our common proverbs; witness, “a rolling stone,” “birds of a feather," "an ill wind," "sour grapes.” One must live with nature as well as with men, to read Ruskin, Emerson, Tennyson, and the rest. He who brings to the world of books the mind filled with beautiful pictures, the practiced eye, the listening ear, the quick sympathy, the trained imagination, the reverent soul, which the study of nature has developed, can indeed find and appropriate treasures hidden from the seeker who claims no fellowship with nature. It is not upon Peter Bell that the wealth of the poets is lavished.

The primrose by the river's brim
A yellow primrose is to him,

And it is nothing more.

The treasure house of literature is only unlocked to him to whom “the meanest flower that blows" can bring "thoughts that do lie too deep for tears."

Finally, our own experience is daily revealing to us the truth that childhood associations are dearer and more enduring than all others. Beside the fact that knowledge of nature is fundamental, and therefore should be early imparted, we must place the equally imperative one—that habit, sympathy, interest, association, grow with the child's growth and strengthen with his strength. The impulses and yearnings of the child heart will be wrought into the ideals of the man. The great truths written in the pages of nature and in the books which chronicle the life and aspirations of men may be the companions of the boy and girl. If the boy is taught to rejoice in the beanties of nature, how is the happiness of the man insured! If the girl learns to “look through nature up to nature's God," she cannot fail of reverent and serene womanhood. This is teaching worthy of our noblest effort. And it must be given to children. The child is father of the man.

DEPARTMENTAL TEACHING IN GRAMMAR GRADES.

BY J. M. FENDLEY, GALVESTON, TEX.

The spirit of progress that characterizes this age has in the last decade wrought wonderful improvements in our schools. The grammar school, however, has not felt that large and quickening impulse toward better things that is so perceptible in the primary school and in the high school. Let us seek for the cause of this difference.

« PreviousContinue »