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Everything seems adapted to his needs, his comfort, and his spiritual good. Limited in body, he may become universal and eternal in soul. For man's highest success and truest happiness, but one thing seems absolutely demanded to develop in harmony with this world-order of which he is a vitalizing part.
The thing that is greatest in this complex whole, and that for which everything else seems planned, is life. Men come and go but life continues always. To conserve the life he has, to increase and enrich it, and to give it to others, is, I believe, man's highest mission. In fulfilling this truly he receives the truest and most lasting happiness. Nature has provided for this by making possible healthy reproduction, but to truly live means more than being born well. It means to discover the laws of life, to enrich the soul and become spiritually dynamic. Here is the work of the teacher, the inspirer of youth.
Hence in the truest sense education is the development of life, the arousing and bringing into control and efficiency latent possibilities. It is the process of teaching one how to live, of giving the psychic control of the physical, the soul control of the body. Education always means change in the functioning of an organism and this change to be vital must take place at the time of growth and in harmony with the natural laws of development. Eating may cause growth but it is exercising, thinking, and willing that make character.
Where there is no life nor growth there can be no education. It has been found, however, that a veneer can be given which simulates education but in no way modifies or affects human action and culture. To make education real it must occur in connection with nascent periods and the desire or impetus must be aroused from within. Hence in the education of children it is important to know how to strengthen and increase life and to make it self-directing and self-sustaining.
We are interested in the physical only as it affects the spiritual, but the relation is close and the interaction important. So far as we are aware perfection of soul can occur only in perfection of body.
Education and nature must go hand in hand. Both are conservative and tend to establish norms. Too great variation from these norms means death, while slight variation if in the right direction may mean greater life. In this connection the most fitting man seems to be the balanced man. He is the more tenacious of life. He transmits more permanent qualities to offspring. He is nearer the universal type, the genus homo, and exerts upon others a more immediate influence. The healthiest life is the balanced life and the education that is strongest and best parallels physical growth and development.
The body as we know it is an exceedingly complex organism. Beginning with a single cell it soon becomes an organized community of billions of highly differentiated cells acting as a unit. In this growth there is law and
order, all parts do not develop simultaneously, some grow first, others last. All individuals follow closely the same order and have most in common, however growth furnishes many abnormalities and variations from the type. Faulty education tends to increase these.
The physical variations or abnormalities of children seem to be greatest between the ages of eight and nine, and become less pronounced with the adjustments of growth during adolescence. Habit variations are probably the greatest at sixteen or seventeen. Abnormalities are greatest in children who are below grade. Defective body structure must mean defective brain or nerve structure, and hence defective psychic life. All this seems to point toward the necessity of a balanced course of study, worked out in harmony with, and according to, the needs of natural development.
In harmony with the laws of physical development there seem to be at least four rather clearly marked stages of mental development. The first covering the period from birth to six or seven; the second extending to fourteen; the third to eighteen or twenty; the fourth continuing thru the rest of the plastic life. There are overlappings and some elements. and needs common to all periods, but the distinctions are sufficiently marked to be carefully noted in all true education.
The first is the kindergarten period, in which the child thru the exercise of instincts gains intelligence and acquires a limited amount of muscular control. As Froebel has said, it is the period par excellence for rendering the inner outer. The second is the period par excellence for gathering simple facts, concrete material; for gaining fundamental muscular control and acquiring the use of the fundamental instruments of education, e.g., reading, writing, drawing, music, numbers, and the elements of language and science. The third is the period of youth, the period of organization and construction, of generalization and the perceiving of relations; the period of transition from boyhood to manhood, from being self-centered to altro-centered. The fourth is the period of specialization, of research, of purer and clearer thinking, and of constructive willing. It is the time of service, of vocational activity, of the Master's business, and the world's work.
During the first two periods the necessity of a balanced curriculum seems unquestioned and in a large part of the third it is almost as essential. During these three periods most of the physical and much of the mental become established and to a large degree fixed. From this time on there is less need of a balanced curriculum. If the foundation has been rightly laid the thinking will be of the highest order. Investigation and research will lend a peculiar charm. The student will perceive himself as an atom in a world whole.
In the true school three things are necessary: organized play for all, motor activity in constructive work, and wisely directed mental effort. We have learned thru the open-air schools that dull, unhealthy children
can be changed in a single year to bright healthy children thru change of nourishment, more fresh air, play, motor activity, and but one-third the time given to mental effort. We might have anticipated the results as many did, but what shall we say of the more fortunate children who are now devoting from a third to a half more time in mental work than is found necessary for the dull? We need a balanced curriculum but we need also a school organized and planned in harmony with the present thought of the necessity in education of work and play.
I agree with Superintendent Elson that the lengthening of the school year is in accord with present-day thought. In the first place it has been found to work favorably with non-promoted children to have a lengthened summer term. Many have made in a few weeks or months what would have otherwise necessitated a year's difference in grade and have acquired better health in doing it. Mental retardation often indicates physical retardation or weakness. If anyone should be free to have a more outdoor life in the summer, it should be the physically weak or mentally retarded child. Since a lengthened school year is found advantageous to the nonpromoted child it certainly will be found more advantageous to the healthy vigorous child. School work should never become drudgery and with more play and motor activity the lengthened school term will add to the child's pleasure.
The processes of learning are going on all the time in every healthy child. Mental growth, like physical growth, is a continuous process. Education, to be vital, must take place during the nascent period. Since growth does not stop during the summer, there is no good reason why the education should. It would be a difficult thing for the child to eat enough during the first nine months of the year to last him, without eating, during the next three. It is just as unreasonable to do without mental food, and especially so during the years when the child is growing and changing so rapidly.
The school is the child's workshop and recreation center. Here he acquires the habits that give meaning and direction to his after-life. When in business, his shop will not close for a summer vacation, and neither should he form habits in youth which would make a prolonged vacation seem necessary. Not only is there a beautiful and expensive school plant remaining idle many months of the year, but the accumulating physical and mental energy of the children is being wasted for the want of direction; or what is more discouraging, the city children are forming the habits of the gang, the loafer, and the hobo. The lengthened term would add to the moral tone, better the health conditions, save both money and time, and strengthen the mental product.
PRELIMINARY REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON UNIFORM RECORDS AND REPORTS
To the President and Members of the Department of Superintendence of the National Education Association
The Committee on Uniform Statistics begs leave to submit the following preliminary report:
Your committee has endeavored, thru the co-operation of school superintendents thruout the country, to bring before this meeting for consideration tentative plans for uniformity in records and reports. The work that we have done has been made possible thru the co-operation of the United States Bureau of Education, which sent out our proposals and received replies with regard to the propositions which we have advanced. In the case of the schedule for reporting fiscal statistics the Bureau of Education, at the request of your committee, invited representatives of the Bureau of the Census, of the National Association of School Accounting Officers, and of our own committee to meet in Washington. Two such meetings were held. As a result of these conferences, the forms which we recommended come before you with the indorsement of all of these bodies, as well as with the approval of a great many superintendents thruout the United States.
The foundation of all statistics concerning pupils is established in the records made by teachers in the schoolroom. Unless these records are expressed in common terms having a definite meaning the data gathered from them are not comparable. School statistics as at present compiled and compared are unreliable and of little value, and they will continue to be so until agreement can be reached not only as to terms used and the definite meaning of these terms, but also, to some extent, as to the method of recording and arranging the original data upon which school statistics are based.
The first work of the Committee on Uniform Statistics consisted of a careful investigation of the subject of school records, and this resulted in the submission of an elementary school record system, thru the co-operation of the United States Commissioner of Education, to school superintendents thruout the country. Altho several forms were offered for the purpose of getting criticisms and suggestions, and for the sake of illustrating the complete working-out of a system of school records, chief emphasis was laid on the cumulative record card which was framed to serve as a permanent and progressive record of the pupil's kindergarten and elementary school career. The form recommended follows:
When a pupil is permanently discharged to work, to remain at home, or because of death, permanent illness, or commitment to an institution, this card is to be returned to the principal's office and a full statement of the cause of the pupil's discharge is to be made in the blank space remaining above.
After an examination of more than five hundred replies to that part of the commissioner's circular relating to a cumulative record card the committee finds as follows:
1. That there is substantially unanimous assent to the following general proposition: A cumulative record card should be kept for every child thruout his entire kindergarten and elementary school career.
2. That suggestions made by correspondents have not shown a preponderance of opinion in favor of any specific increase or decrease in either the size or contents of the card.