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cally recommends that the period of general education should close by the twentieth year.
There are many substantial arguments for such a recommendation, of which only a few may be mentioned here.
In the first place, the period of plasticity during which a human being can be profitably educated is not coterminous with life. People may be flexible and educable to the end of life; but the period of greatest educability closes for most by the end of the twenties. There is considerable variation in individuals, but, in general, a man who has not found his work and place in life by the time he has reached his thirtieth year is indeed unfortunate. His chances of success are greatly diminished.
If the period of plasticity is thus confined, it is essential that every important and requisite mode of training fall within the period of plasticity. Now the modern contention is that a man's adjustment to the world in which he lives is dependent upon three types of training: (1) A general or liberal education which will give him a command over those human institutions in which he holds a membership in common with other men; (2) a specialized vocational education which will fit him for his particular economic function; and (3) an apprenticeship to his specific work and station in life which will snugly fit his theoretic education to the concrete and practical situations which he must meet.
If our scheme of general education takes till the age of twenty-two, vocational education and apprenticeship, at least for those who go into professions, must be crowded into the six or eight remaining years of plasticity. This would seem to be a disproportionate allotment. More often than is desirable, if observation counts for anything, the college graduate is left without the eagerness and adjustability to pursue his vocational education and to undergo the specific and somewhat trying apprenticeship thru which the world insists upon passing its young. The ordeal of doing practical work in a subordinate position ought to be presented a year or two earlier to most boys, say at the age of twenty. That such a plan is wise on theoretic grounds is apparent; that it is a feasible practice is proven by experience abroad and at home.
For the most part, England, France, Germany, and other less important European countries have a system of school organization which provides for a completion of the period of general education by about the eighteenth year. There are variations in the cases of both individual persons and particular institutions, but the general practice proves the accuracy of the contention that the period of general education may be closed earlier than is the case with our general American practice without any appreciable loss of efficiency and, indeed, with an appreciable gain.
The American school organization is, in its lengthened period of general education, an anomaly among national systems of educationan anomaly created by an accident of history. Once the American youth completed his collegiate training four or five years earlier than now. This period has been extended by an increased standardization of the academic attainments of the lower schools enforced by higher institutions. The German university and the English college, once parallel developments and roughly covering about the same age period, are, in America, treated as institutions of different grades, the German university being superimposed upon the Americanized English college.
Such attempts as have been made in the United States to shorten the period of general training by two years substantiate the European experience. Wherever the professional training has been provided at the beginning of the junior year of college we are led to believe that the articulation has been successful. So successful has it been in the eyes of the university administrators that the association of state universities has declared for a distinct articulation at the close of the second collegiate year.
On these three grounds your committee on economy in education believes that the period allotted to general education should be shortened two full years: (1) In order that vocational education and practical apprenticeship be given a fairer share of the period of plasticity; (2) because European experience proves the feasibility of such a plan in general; and (3) because such preliminary experiments with a shortened period in our American schools determine its feasibility for American students.
A NEW ARTICULATION OF OUR SCHOOLS
Our second proposition is that the period of general education should be differently subdivided-more specifically, that six years be given to elementary education, six to secondary education, and two to that collegiate training requisite as a proper introduction to professional education.
Careful investigation of all the distinctions made between elementary, secondary, and collegiate education fails to reveal any large functional differences. Collegiate education is an intensification and expansion of the culture of the secondary schools, as that of the secondary schools is an enlargement of the liberal training given in the elementary unit. Another substantial difference is, that each higher school presents an increased degree of variability that personal ability and ultimate vocational placing may be taken into account. It is because lawyers, doctors, ministers, and teachers in higher schools, more than any nonprofessional class, have a far-reaching influence on the fundamental institutions of life that we demand of them a preliminary education extending thru the college. It is because the skilled craftsman and the
larger man of business have a more general influence on common affairs than the unskilled workman and the commercial shop-clerk that one usually goes thru high school and the other does not. The articulations express the degree of general training which society in its rough wisdom decrees as necessary to protect the wider social interests which tend inevitably to be affected by the spirit and method of a particular voca
If such is the real distinction between elementary, secondary, and collegiate education, then there are many reasons for believing that a division of the first twelve years into two six-year periods is better than the unequal eight- and four-year division we now have.
In the first place, such expert testimony as we have indicates the presence of considerable waste time and energy in the elementary school. There is a very widespread belief among school men that the fundamental facts, habits, attitudes, and ideals demanded by the general needs of our civilization can be fixed in the nervous system of the child in six school years.
In the second place, the compulsory education law under our present organization gives society control of the child only long enough to guarantee the abler child eight years of general training. It cannot guarantee him the additional years of vocational education required to make him an efficient, self-supporting, and self-reliant citizen.
To shorten the elementary school to six years without impairing its efficiency is to allow two further years of control that will guarantee every child, who does not go to the high school, some vocational education. The need to guarantee some vocational education to the retarded students is so important that many careful students of social conditions are ready to say that the compulsory school age must be extended to sixteen years so as to carry the least able elementary school children who now get no further than the fourth; fifth, or sixth school year, thru one, two, or three years of vocational education.
In the third place, the six-year articulation is regarded not only as a better ending-point for the general elementary studies but as a better beginning point for the secondary studies. There are certain inner physiological changes that usher in adolescence that now occur at about the time when the average child makes the transition from elementary to secondary school.
The strain of outer and inner conditions are more or less coincident. Therefore the resulting school mortality is likely to be larger than it ought to be or school life is continued at a larger physical and nervous cost than ought to be the case. It would be a distinct gain for a child to get fairly well started and adjusted to his new school life, vocational or secondary, before the full weight of physiological and nervous changes are thrust upon him. The two adjustments can be better cared for in series than together.
Again, it is the opinion of schoolmasters in general that, for those who have the peculiar mentality to go on to the ordinary academic high school, it is decidedly more profitable to begin the foreign languages at twelve than at fourteen years of age. The same advantage may be held in other subjects where a large acquisition of facts is necessary to successful work.
In the case of those children who are more given to action than to abstraction it is equally profitable to begin to center their intellectual work about an active vocation early. To begin vocational education, with its practical life-career appeal, at twelve rather than at fourteen is to save many children from truancy and disinterest. It will extend their school life so that they are not too early driven into unprofitable and futureless employments. They will still take up much general training parallel with their broad study of vocational work.
A six-year articulation will force a needed economy in the elementary school; it will permit the state to guarantee some vocational training as well as some general education; it will permit the child to get started on his school adjustment slightly before adolescence overtakes him with its strain of inner reconstruction; it will permit an earlier differentiation that will better meet individual and class needs.
Our third proposition is that the elementary-school curriculum should be rearranged so as to shorten the time distribution by two years. The advantages of such a step have already been argued. It is now merely a question of practicality. We have only to turn to the concrete efforts in this direction that have already been made by American school men. Such experiments as have been tried in American schools and school systems under practical operating conditions prove with certainty that the elementary school may be reduced to seven years; and that there is an almost equally strong probability that the articulation at the close of the sixth year would be fully as efficient.
The main requirement at this point in our progress is to investigate the waste in the elementary schools and to make definite proposals for eliminating the archaic and least useful materials of the course of study and to propose more economical methods of teaching.
To this end, I move that the Department of Superintendence appoint a Committee of Five on Economy of Time in Elementary Education, this committee of practical superintendents to co-operate with the general Committee on Economy of Time in Education.
AN EDUCATIONAL EPOCH IN NEW AMERICA GEORGE E. MACLEAN, PRESIDENT, STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, IOWA CITY,
The general topic of this Convention, and its admirable program, have proven that the first decade of the twentieth century is an educational
epoch in New America. In the language of the stars an epoch is the point at which a star seems to halt and from which its future orbit is calculated. This decade is a turning-point in the star ascendant of education in the starlit firmament of New America. Isn't it a glorious time to go stargazing together? There have been other brilliant epochs bringing in the new, but none greater than ours, for they all have been preparing ours and shine thru it. Paul, the greatest man of history, who beheld a heavenly vision, exclaimed, “Behold, all things are become new," and his compeer, John the seer, beheld a new heavens and a new earth. Therefore the new and, necessarily, progress have characterized the Christian era from that epoch to this. The epoch of adventure and exploration incarnate in Columbus discovered a new world, led our forefathers on as pioneers, made us discontented until we discover the earth's poles, and in the field of truth never-resting pilgrims of progress. The epoch of settlement tied down the new to the old nationalities–New Spain, New France, New England, New Amsterdam, Nova Scotia, New York, New Brunswick, and even New Jersey. Naturally Harvard was planted at Newtown, later Cambridge, Yale at New Haven, and Kings' (Columbia) at New York.
The epoch of 1776 with Washington and the Revolutionary fathers gave us a new republic, a United States of America, in reality only a confederacy of the new old colonies. The era, however, of political liberty was insured. The twenty-five hundred living graduates of the nine colonial colleges at the outbreak of the Revolution were leaders of the sons of liberty, furnished about one-half of the field officers of the militia, the larger share of those in the Continental Congress, and four-fifths of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. What wonder that the attempt was made
' in the Federal Convention of 1787 to give Congress powers over public education, and that the endeavor to provide for a national university at the seat of government was not only made in that convention but fostered by the six successive presidents of the United States? Washington led the way in his messages, and by a bequest in his will. In this Jefferson held hands with Washington. Jefferson's epitaph put as the climax of his life "founder of the University of Virginia.”
The educational epoch of the Revolution was, as usual, in conjunction with the political, and introduced the era of the founding of state universities as well as of many endowed colleges. In a high sense the most original American contribution to the educational history of the world has been the rise and progress of state universities, inspired by their Magna Charta in the Ordinance of 1787 in the words "Religion, Morality, and Knowledge, being necessary to good government, and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” The original federal land grants made possible the state school systems, crowned by the state universities.
*C. F. Thwing, Higher Education in America, pp. 172 ff.