« PreviousContinue »
In the ungraded school the teacher has a great variety of subjects to teach, and must hold each pupil responsible for his work if he can. But he has only five minutes, or less, to probe the work of the individual pupil. He cannot go behind the words of the lesson to see whether the pupil understands them. It takes a recitation of twenty to thirty minutes to really probe a lesson and get at the ideas be hind the words. The pupil is called upon to restate his ideas in his own words and to illustrate the same. Good teaching cannot be had in an ungraded school.
COL. F. W. PARKER, Chicago.—The ideal school is an ideal community-an embryonic democracy. We should introduce into the school what we must have in the state, and this is democracy in its pure sense. The child is not in the school to learn, not in there for mere knowledge; but he is in there to live, to learn to livenot a preparation for life so much as real living. The pupil should in school learn to live. He should there learn to put himself into life. The teacher is the leader in this community life. Self-government is the only true government. A child should be taught how to live for others. We are too apt to ignore the divinity of a child. The reconciling of the individual with life is the great problem of the day. It is the great social question of the day. All work should be educative. The question is, What shall come into life to-day? The class recitation is the one place where mind meets mind. A class of fifty is none too large. The forty-nine pupils help the one and the one helps the other forty-nine. When should a child be promoted? When he can do more good in some other place than he can do where he
SUPT. W. J. SHEARER of New Castle, Pa.-If I understand the method which Superintendent Search advocates, it is a return to the ungraded school without recitations. Surely this would be a great mistake: First, because the graded school is a partial solution of the defects found in the ungraded school and better than the ungraded school, measures up to the requirement of "the greatest good to the greatest number;" second, because it would rob the pupils of all those many benefits which Dr. Harris has so well shown to be the results of the recitation.
That the graded school of to-day does not sufficiently provide for the individual differences of the pupils, all must admit; for, though the children of any grade differ widely in age, in acquirements, in aptitude, in physical endurance, in the power of attention, in home advantages, in the rate of mental development, in regularity of attendance, and in many other ways, the graded school of to-day would keep all the children of each grade in intellectual lock-step, not only month after month but year after year for their whole school lives.
This being so, is it any wonder that the iron-clad system which, regardless of all differences, would cast all minds in the same mold, and subject all to the same treatment for the same length of time, and test all in the same way, is objected to, because it demands so much uniformity at every step that the most are forced to stop school, and the few who do finish graduate too late to get a fair start in life? Is it to be wondered at, that, from all sides, there comes a demand for some system of grading which will be more pliant, and will not attempt to overcome, not only the differences of physical ability and physical environments but even the difference in mental ability which the Almighty has predetermined?
This “Procrustean bed of grades," which differs but little from the first system of graded schools introduced by Sturm almost 400 years ago, must plead guilty to many serious charges, among which may be mentioned the following:
1. The bright pupils are discouraged by being held back and the slow by being pushed forward; yet some wonder why sixty per cent of the pupils do not go more than three years.
2. There is an amazing loss of time by those who remain. Statistics which we have just compiled show, that, for every 100 pupils in the schools, there have been over 112 years lost.
3. Even the brightest cannot gain time; while, if any but the brightest lose but a short time, they fail to be promoted and lose a year even when but a month or two back.
Though these defects exist, surely it is not necessary, pendulum-like, to swing from the iron-clad grading of the present to this plan, which would prove little better than a disorganized ungraded school.
By request, I mention very briefly the steps taken at New Castle to provide a more pliant plan of grading:
1. The promotion examination was abandoned. The pupil's promotion no longer depends on the result of an examination nor upon the calendar, but on his ability to proceed.
2. The pupils were graded carefully, and but one grade put to a room. As differences appeared, each grade was divided into three or four sections, according to ability, and each division was allowed to go just as fast as it could and should.
3. No certain amount of work was required of all in a given time; for, without uniformity of conditions, uniformity of results should not be expected.
In spite of limiting conditions, many advantages have resulted. We mention but a few:
1. It makes possible a frequent re-classification, which is the only means of preventing the sacrifice of the pupils to the graded school. When a pupil gets ahead or behind his own class, he is at once moved to a division a short distance ahead or behind his own, where he can work to advantage.
2. An accurate grading of pupils, according to ability, into classes of from ten to fifteen, instead of herding them in classes of fifty, furnishes a practicable means of reaching each individual.
3. Every pupil is touched with hope and with enthusiasm; for the progress of each one depends entirely on ability and application.
4. Forty-two per cent of the pupils in the highest grammar grade, having finished the work of that grade by January, at once started upon the work of the high school, and will be able to graduate in three years, instead of four years.
5. By the end of the first year's trial of the present plan, forty-five per cent of the pupils below the high school had gained from one-fourth to two-thirds of a year's work, without any urging on the part of the teachers.
If this method is not founded upon sound educational principles, for the sake of those in whom I am deeply interested, let the educational philosophers present criticise and correct.
If Superintendent Search, who so far has given us nothing but nebulous theory, has a plan and has tried it, let us have an explanation and some statement of results. Theory without plans or results is worthless.
MR. A. E. WINSHIP, Editor of “Journal of Education,” Boston, Mass.-Superintendents, like others, worship the new thing that is their own. Their attack on what is not their own newness is often amusing, never more so than in this instance, when three men who stood pre-eminently for the most advanced thought in school administration turn upon Mr. Search with peculiar delight when he brings something newer than their newest.
Superintendent Search has brought us an idea that has been designated as individualism, and all of these speakers have at once arrayed themselves for a redefense of the class system; a thing they have done, probably, regularly for thirty years. There is certainly nothing new in this defense.
Individual instruction does not do away with class exercises, but rather with the tyranny of a program. It antagonizes that phase of class work which requires every exercise to begin at a given minute,-twelve minutes of eleven o'clock,-and close as definitely at eighteen minutes past eleven. As Mr. Search's idea is applied in several places in California, there are class exercises whenever there is any occasion for them. The class as a whole begins a subject and these exercises are continued till, one by one, the pupils are upon their feet, when they are allowed to go alone under the general direction of the teacher until such time as they can advantageously work together. The root element in individualism is to do the best for the pupils as a whole and individually, both through class exercises and through private assistance. Each subject is treated differently, as is each pupil. In geography, the pet subject of our friend from Cook county, the opportunity for indivídual work would be great; there being no attempt to have all pupils learn the same thing, but in many cases each specializing for his own advantage and that of his class. I make no claim to being an out-and-out believer in individualism, but I do believe that the greatest advantage in these meetings comes from having every man make the best possible presentation of the thing in which he believes. This meeting stands out above all others in the history of the association, in that we have had the best possible advanced statement of American Hegelianism and a very vigorous defense by the Herbartianists. The better each presents his own case, the sooner we shall have an ideal American product infinitely superior to either.
H. R. SANFORD, Institute Conductor, New York.—The objections to the graded school system have been exaggerated. It is altogether too much platoon work, Children are treated in the mass, made to march along, step by step, together, and are graduated together, as far as possible, by the graded system. The tendency is, to keep pupils back and thereby discourage them; to keep pupils together for a whole year without any allowance made for the differences in their mental make-up. One plan to break this up is to have at least two classes in the same room. The latch-string should always be kept out for meritorious pupils. The theoretical age for entrance to the high school is fourteen years. I have tested classes in many states, and I find that substantially the same differences exist as I found in some of the Cleveland schools yesterday. In one of the entering classes to the high school I found that there were three pupils seventeen years of age, nine pupils sixteen years of age, eleven pupils fifteen years of age, five pupils fourteen years of age, three pupils thirteen years of age, and one pupil twelve years of age. All of the excuses that may be brought forward, and are brought forward, by teachers-some are sick, some are irregular attendants, others unusually dull--does not explain these differences in age.
DR. E. E. White, Columbus, Ohio.-I improve this opportunity to clinch what I said yesterday, that the Herbartian pedagogy, as explained by its American advocates, leads logically to individual instruction and to the abandonment of class instruction. This was frankly conceded by Dr. Butler in his reply-a most important concession, as I see it. We now have had a concrete illustration of this fact. Superintendent Search has simply carried the theory to its logical result. He has obviously seen, that, if the apperceptive condition of the pupil at a given moment (whatever this may mean!) determines the next step to be taken in his instruction, pupils cannot be taught in classes, since there is no continued common apperceptive condition. The only thing to be done is, to let each pupil go at his individual gait without reference to the progress of others-led always by his interests, not to say his whims. This is the position of the paper in a sentence; and it is a logical one if the theory be true. This takes us back to the unclassified schools of fifty years ago, in which only a few bright pupils made satisfactory progress. Nine-tenths of the pupils in the schools of my boyhood droned over nearly the same ground in arithmetic, grammar, etc., from term to term, their progress being largely confined to spelling and reading, in which there were class exercises of some sort. The improvement since made in school instruction has been, to a great degree, the result of classification. It is true that the graded system has been attended with serious evils, but it does not follow that the only remedy for these evils is a return to individual instruction. Experience shows that it is possible to teach pupils in classes without sacrificing their individual abilities and needs. The thing required is the proper adaptation of class instruction to the individual pupils, and not the sacrifice of the pupils to class instruction. The abandonment of class instruction is practically the abolition of the schools.
DR. EUGENE BOUTON Pittsfield, Mass.--The conditions in the smaller districts and smaller schools are quite different from those in the larger cities and larger graded schools. In the rural district school the classes are frequently so small that tue instruction is approximately or absolutely individual. The results obtained in such schools are, in most cases, distinctly inferior to those obtained in schools havide from thirty to fifty pupils reciting together in the same grade. There is usually in them a dearth of vigor and enthusiasm. They are lacking in the interest generated by numbers and in the stimulus afforded by the successes of other pupils. In most teaching the same instruction is helpful to nearly all the pupils of a fairly graded class, and in schools of fair size the class intervals may be short enough to meet the needs of almost every pupil. If, however, the class intervals are less than three a year, the number of classes will usually be too great for satisfactory work. It is difficult to see how the efficiency of the teacher will be increased by practically diriding the room into as many classes in each subject as there are pupils to be taught. The amount of personal attention to each pupil would not be increasea, and the multiplication of effect which characterizes class instruction would be lost. It is true that more attention should be given to pupils who from any cause are out of touch with the work that they ought to do. Such pupils will naturally class with others in some subjects, but in other subjects they must have help outside of the class or waste much of their time and effort and become bewildered and discouraged. Very likely an extra teacher in a school of fair size might use her time profitably in assisting such pupils. In schools of moderate size having a supervising principal this work might perhaps be best done by the principal. But it should be added to class instruction; it should supplement it rather than replace it.
SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH (in closing the discussion).-We have been standing upon different platforms. Some of you will see these things in a new light within the space of fifteen years. My work in this line has been experimental. This plan, of course, has its losses and its gains. I have sought to find the proportion of these, and my experience leads me to the opinion that the gains in this plan are very much more than the losses. It is not a return to ungraded schools. It is scientific study with the child as the basis of the work. There can be no such study except by individuality. There can be no true education except sub-education. In this the teacher can only direct. Each pupil must do his own work.
CHILD STUDY-SYSTEMATIC AND UNSYSTEMATIC.
BY WM. L. BRYAN, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, BLOOMINGTON, IND.
I. It is a commonplace fact that one may give chief attention now to one and now to another mental occupation—now to seeing, now to hearing, now to meditation, and so on.
It is also a commonplace fact that one may through life devote main attention to a certain form of mental occupation, one giving himself mainly to poetic or religious emotion, another to the ingathering of new facts, another to the deeper assimilation of facts already known, and so on.
It is a common opinion that the several forms of mental occupation, as they occur in an individual, are by no means essentially hostile to each other; rather, that they are essentially supplementary, or even still more closely interdependent than that word implies, all springing out of one life, and, all together, working out its more complete development.
If, by analogy, one expects that men of divergent mental habit will see the uses of each other; if one expects that poet, prophet, scientist, philosopher, and a man of affairs will confess themselves brothers, children of one life, working together in different ways at the same life task-if one expects this, what is the fact?
Go to your book-shelf and take down a half dozen of the mastersPlato's “Republic,” “Gulliver's Travels,” “The Imitation of Christ," Schiller's “Gods of Greece," Bismarck's "Speeches," and a monograph of the first rank on experimental psychology. All these books deal in some way with the life of man. But the ways are not the same. They are not at peace with each other. They are crowded with mutual hostilities. My colleague in psychology is impatient of everything and everybody outside of a laboratory. Plato urges his disciples to get away as far as possible from every sort of contact with the earth. Swift spends one-fourth part of his volume in bitter ridicule of all systematic science and philosophy whatever. Bismarck rails at the doctor-mob who would ruin the state with their scholarisms. Schiller is angry with physical science for banishing faith in the conscious divinity of Nature. And, finally, Thomas á Kempis distrusts all alike-science, philosophy, statesmanship, art, and common sense. For all these other masters he has only pity and a prayer that they may be saved into the quiet life.
Now, it is always possible to settle a quarrel like this by taking one of these points of view and explaining the others as degenerate