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Educational appliances may be conspicuously absent from the grade meeting, but the presence of a body of earnest teachers, conscious of their needs and defects, taught by experience the necessity of a better equipment for a better performance of their work, eager to improve every facility to enlarge their theoretical and practical knowledge, anxious to utilize every means by which their views of education and educational agencies may be extended, affords an opportunity for useful work in the grade meeting rarely possessed by the professional school.
SUPT. H. E. KRATZ, Sioux City, Iowa.-It is evident to even a casual observer, that, at present, the trend of educational thought is from the extreme of dead uniformity, on the one hand, to the other extreme of impractical individualism.
Only a few years ago the autocrat of uniformity ruled us as with a rigid rod of iron, and we bowed in meek subjection to his tyrannous decrees. System was the touchstone by which schoolroom work was tested. If it failed in this essential, it was like salt that had lost its savor, good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of-superintendents.
We rigidly classified the pupils according to some exact but superficial memory test. We conjured up a fictitious average pupil, through whom, we fondly believed, the exact amount that a class should do could be accurately measured. We laid out an inflexible course of study, measured by the supposed capacity of that fictitious average pupil, and religiously tried to cram that course of study down the mental æsophagus of each child, nolens volens, without any special regard to his individual powers of assimilation.
Woe unto the teacher who dared change or adapt in the slightest degree the course of study, or modify the prescribed methods of presenting each subject! We are led to exclaim, Oh, Uniformity, what crimes have been committed against the children in thy name!
We are in danger now of rushing into the other extreme of impractical individualism. Uniformity is apparently regarded by some as an evil per se, to be rooted out wherever found. This will certainly lead to disorganization and demoralization. A certain amount of system and order must characterize the work of our schools.
I am, however, heartily in accord with the efforts recently put forth to gain an insight into the chief characteristics of each individual pupil, so that instruction may be adapted, not to a fictitious average pupil, but as far as possible to the peculiar mental attitude and needs of each pupil.
I also believe heartily in the view, that we need more than ever before to conserve the individuality of our pupils. The time has come in our complex and highly differentiated civilization when we must more carefully study individual traits; more carefully seek out and nurture special ability and adjust students to their life worktheir special niche.
In order to secure these results, a course of study must be regarded as a mere outline, which the teacher is to adapt, as far as possible, to the individual requirements of each child. To give the teacher this freedom is the logical deduction of
our plea for the conservation of the individuality of the pupil; and for the same reason, she must be given much latitude as to the methods she employs.
In the evolution of the efficient teacher, three stages can usually be traced, viz.: First, the imitative stage, which is chiefly characterized by the careful imitation of the manners, methods, and devices of some former favorite teacher. But little thought characterizes this stage. Attractive methods are industriously sought out, and eagerly swallowed without any thought of analysis or assimilation. Some teachers never evolve out of this tyro stage, and may be termed cases of arrested development.
Second, what may be termed the irrational stage, in which there is much said about pedagogical principles and doctrines and very little done along the line of their wise application. We hear about "from the concrete to the abstract," but see that order frequently reversed in the schoolroom. We hear glib talk about apperception, interest, concentration, etc., but look in vain for their intelligent application in schoolroom work. This may be characterized as a hopeful, perhaps necessary, stage in their further evolution.
Last comes the thoughtful stage, in which everything that enters into school work, whether it be principle, or material, or method, or device, is subjected first to most thoughtful scrutiny, to see whether it commends itself to the judgment, and then subjected to the still more critical test of results in the schoolroom. This is the stage that is characterized by enthusiasm, growth, progress, ever-increasing efficiency and power.
As far as teachers' meetings are concerned, the superintendent generally tries to increase the efficiency of his teachers through three kinds of meetings, viz.: First, the general teachers' meeting, held either in sections or in one body, in which his chief purpose is to stimulate his teachers to a more energetic, thoughtful, and intelligent work through a better understanding of the child and of the general principles which underlie successful teaching, to inspire them with greater enthusiasm and love for the work, and to foster a stronger esprit de corps; second, the principals' meeting, in which he is in consultation with his principals, as his cabinet or advisers in shaping his plans of work; and last, the grade meeting.
If the work of the general and principals' meetings has been carried on as indicated, then the work of the grade meeting chiefly resolves itself into the con、 sideration of how the subjects of that grade in whose interests the meeting has been called shall be presented.
We take it for granted that there is no need to present subject-matter in the grade meeting, except when a new subject is being introduced into the course of study. Hence the grade meeting chiefly considers the best methods of presenting to a class the subjects taught in that grade.
Shall the superintendent, having confidence in his own judgment, present what he thinks to be the best method of teaching a certain subject and insist that his teachers strictly follow his method? A great many objections can be justly urged against such a course. Suppose the subject be primary reading. Dare he, on his own judgment, and without the searching test of schoolroom experience, insist that all his primary teachers must sink their individuality and rigidly follow his method? Such a course as that would almost certainly invite failure, and would indicate on the part of the superintendent a sublime confidence in his own infallibility.
Better will it be for him and his teachers if he present a method as skillfully as he may be able, commend its merits and criticise its defects; or better still, he can give a general outline as to what he wishes presented and how it should be presented, and then wisely leave the exact details to be worked out by his teachers. He should invite the freest and fullest discussion of the plan of work, and be ready to adopt any good suggestions or modifications which may come from his teachers.
The superintendent needs to exercise much good sense here, so as to discriminate between criticisms aimed at his plan and those aimed at himself. The personal element must not enter here.
Best of all, remembering that he has those three classes of teachers to deal with, the imitative, the irrational, and the thoughtful, he should invite one of his most successful teachers to present her plan of teaching a certain subject, or request her to instruct a class before the grade meeting. Wise choice is necessary here, so as to secure a teacher of judicial temper, who will not be easily disturbed by the sharp cross-fire to which she will likely be exposed when her work is thrown open to discussion. The superintendent must wisely direct and shape the course of the discussion, and from his knowledge gained through schoolroom visitation, thoroughly vitalize it. This I regard one of the most helpful modes of conducting a grade meeting.
In the study of the best plan of teaching a subject, there are so many complex elements that enter into it, so many important results in the child's development that should come out of it, that I dare not as superintendent trust myself to simple theory. I dare not dogmatize where so much is at stake. When there comes a conflict between what judgment seems to indicate and the results attained in the schoolroom, I bow to the dictum of intelligent experience rather than to that of cold logical theory. I am, therefore, fully convinced, that the kind of teaching which has been thoroughly tested in the schoolroom, and has produced the best results there, is the teaching which should be presented as an object lesson in the grade meeting.
SOME SOCIOLOGICAL FACTORS IN RURAL EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES.
BY B. A. HINSDALE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN.
Education is one of the most important social functions. It is society that, employing its various agents, uses the accumulated knowledge and thought in its possession to form the character and direct the lives of the new members that are constantly being admitted to its ranks. In this way, education acts strongly upon the social functions; so strongly, indeed, upon some of them that it may be said to determine their character. This is not all. It is equally true that the other social functions act strongly upon this one, serving to determine both the quantity and the quality of the education that society furnishes its members. It is to the discussion of this second proposition, limited, as it is, in the program, that this paper will be devoted. First, however, we may take a broader view of the subject, with a view of seeing more definitely what it embraces.
In the month of August, 1891, the Swiss celebrated two notable anniversaries. On the first day of the month the confederacy celebrated the sixth centennial, and on the fifteenth the city of Bern the seventh centennial, of their respective foundations. Every man
who gave any real thought to these two anniversaries must have remarked that the place of Switzerland in the history of the world, and in the present life of the world, is quite incommensurate with her territory, population, and natural resources, and must have reflected upon the causes that have made it so. The Swiss area falls a little below 16,000 square miles, and the Swiss population a little below 3,000,000 souls. Together, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are somewhat less in size and somewhat more in population. Among the causes of the disparity to which attention has been directed, high place must be accorded to education. The federal constitution of Switzerland contains these provisions: "The cantons provide for primary instruction, which shall be sufficient, and thus be placed exclusively under the direction of the secular authorities. It is compulsory, and in the public schools, free. The public schools shall be such that they may be frequented by the adherents of all religious sects without any offense to their freedom of conscience or belief." The country ranks among the foremost of the world in respect to public education. The amount of money expended on schools of various kinds is proportionately high, while illiteracy in large parts of the country has been practically annihilated. In the year of the two centennials referred to, primary education cost on an average forty francs, and secondary education 151 francs, to the scholar. The average expenditure for primary schools was ten francs for each inhabitant. There were, however, marked differences in different parts of the republic. The best cantons compare favorably with the best states of North Germany. While the German and the French cantons, other things being equal, are on the same footing, the Italian cantons fall far into the rear. The contrast between the Protestant and Catholic cantons is marked. Not only do the Protestant cantons surpass the others as a rule, but the Catholic cantons rise higher in the scale the more they have been touched by modern progressive influences. In the full Protestant cantons the school attendance is one to five of the whole population, in the half and half cantons one to seven, while in the Catholic cantons it is one to nine. Zürich makes an excellent showing; but Zürich has an educational history running back for centuries. It contains the largest of the Swiss cities; next to Geneva, it has the densest population, and is also very wealthy. Protestant controver sialists have been prompt to ascribe the superiority of the Protestant cantons in general solely to religion, but it is only fair to observe that, as a class, the Catholic cantons are the more mountainous, the more thinly populated, the poorer, and the more backward. Such cantons as Uri, Schwyz, and Unter-Walden-Nied expended but three francs for each inhabitant on education, while Zürich, Schaffhausen,
and Basle expended fifteen, sixteen, and twenty-four francs respectively. Uri, Schwyz, and Unter-Walden-Nied, which formed the original confederacy in 1291, all abut upon the great central lake; they are all small; they are infertile, thinly populated, containing no considerable towns, and are largely devoted to grazing and pasturage. Uri has the sparsest population of all the cantons, save alone the Grisons, which lies on the Italian side of the Alps. Now, in studying Swiss civilization, these facts cannot be separated. They hold together. They give an excellent example of the interaction of social forces, or of the mutuality of cause and effect. Change any one of the factors, and you change more or less the whole circle to which it belongs. So much will suffice to illustrate what is meant by sociological factors in popular education.
The subject as defined on the program offers to our minds many extremely interesting facts. It will be best, however, to confine our attention to such phases as have also practical importance, holding out some promise of reform or progress.
First, we will give our attention to density of population. The importance of this element in the rural school problem becomes obvious at a glance. In populous localities fewer schools and districts, relatively, are called for, while at the same time, owing to the larger numbers and the more varied attainments of the pupils, the system can be more fully developed. The school and the home under the present system cannot be far apart; otherwise children will attend the school with difficulty or not at all.
Once more, the interest and enthusiasm of pupils and teachers depend directly upon the number and the ability of the pupils present. For the majority of children, individual instruction, or anything closely approaching it, is not to be commended. Aristotle condemned such instruction on political grounds. It is also to be condemned on pedagogical grounds. Children need the inspiration of numbers. Besides, there is a larger ethical element in numbers. As a rule, you can no more make a good school out of a half-dozen pupils than you can make a powerful galvanic battery with one or two pairs of plates. Then, again, the question of cost is directly involved. Where pupils are scattered and the schools are small, education is necessarily very expensive, provided it is at the same time good. Generally, however, it is bad.
To illustrate. Some twenty years ago I investigated one of the oldest townships in Northern Ohio with respect to its school condition, and with these results: Number of schools, 7; youth of school age enumerated, 191; pupils enrolled in schools, 103; average daily attendance of pupils, 71; average size of schools (number of pupils), 10; largest enumeration in any district, 85, smallest, 12; largest en