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Schools And Education
Education And Life
The Common School
Citizenship And Schools
Education In Democratic Society
Ethics In Schools
Efficiency Of Our Schools
Drama And Education
( Originally Published 1913 )
At a recent meeting of the National Educational Association, the Chairman of the Committee having in charge this topic, "The Culture Element and Economy of Time in Education," began his report with the following words: "Last year, by error, the subject was printed on the program, `The Culture Element in Education;' this year it reads, `The Culture Element and Economy of Time in Education,' next year it will probably read, `Economy of Time in Education;' and the next year it may read, `The Reorganization of American Education."'
One of the important educators who discussed the report said: "During the year the chorus of dissatisfaction with the results of our educational system from the layworld, as well as from members of our own profession, has grown louder and louder. I view with satisfaction the turning of the tide of sentiment toward the problem of discovering and saving the scholar, and of finding and providing for others educational paths that lead to efficient activities."
These utterances from the "intellectuals" themselves gave heart of grace to the masses-to parents, students, leaders, women's clubs, teachers, social workers and others who, in spite of much expense of time and strength given to organized effort, have in the main been too timid to give tongue to the bold belief above quoted. The organized layman has not been powerful to any great extent in educational reform, because necessarily his ranks are recruited from the workers of the world. To the business man, the ever engrossed mother, the philanthropist and the often over-worked teacher, the problems of the school are most pressing and insistent. Yet these groups of people, from lack of time, and in many instances wanting the trained mind, can not work man to man with the profession, and, therefore, are not potent in bringing the se ardently desired new order which is aptly phrased by the great scholar, as the "Reorganization of American Education."
To them, if they will be the leaven in this exalted undertaking-as they should be, on account of practical world knowledge and the wider experience of conditions-must be brought in simple direct fashion the light and leading which comes through the study of the history and problems of the past.
A few illustrations from The World's Progress may make the demonstration.
Suppose years ago the layman had realized the playground idea, as exemplified in the "Social Life of Greece." Quoting a few words from page 435, Part II:
"The gymnastic training was given in special open fields, reserved in various parts of the city. Here under the direction of a master, boys learned to wrestle, box, run, jump, throw the discus, and cast the spear. After energetic exercises of this kind they took a plunge in water, which was also provided near by, that they might learn to swim, etc." If this "long view," doubtless known in all its phases by the cult, could have been as familiar to the early city builders, many of the moral and physical evils of this nation would never have existed.
Again, the constantly discussed subject of the over crowded curriculum by educational bodies, as well as among the laity, ends too often with the query, what after all should be the foundation of an education suitable to the children of a democracy? Possibly the answer which would suit the ordinary mind is at hand in Part IV, page 470 of this work, in the very interesting account of Schools and Education in the Middle Age, quoting:
"Learning was divided into seven branches: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. The first three were the more elementary, the remaining four, the studies for advanced students." Not a weak platform to say the least upon which to begin the aforesaid "reorganization." Again on page 471, Part IV, comes the fascinating story of Charlemagne, which conveys this day's lesson so perfectly. "Although he (Charlemagne) never had opportunity for learning, until he was a middle aged man, and could never write his name, he was ambitious for his own children and those of his kingdom. All his life he used his influence in favor of thorough study. He exhorted the churches to be more accurate in their work-not to mispronounce words in their singing and not to allow crudities to slip into their speech." An extract from his famous letter to the Abbots of monasteries is not inappropriate to even a president's message itself in this day of careless and slangy speech, which is fast doing away with English "pure and undefiled." "During the past year we have often received letters from different monasteries informing us that at their sacred services the brethren offered up prayers on our behalf; and we have observed that the thoughts contained in these letters, though in themselves most just, were expressed in uncouth language, and while pious devotion dictated the sentiments, the unlettered tongue was unable to express them aright."
Many other examples carrying stimulating lessons might be cited. Not only then through this work is there the opportunity for comparison and contrast, with its consequent enlight enment, but of great value also, are lists of references and topics, if one has inclination to follow up a theme.
Especially does this presentation appeal to the untrained or busy investigator.
Among the latter to some degree may be classed perhaps the organized women's clubs of this and other countries. The foundation of this mighty body known as the General Federa tion of Women's Clubs, which now has a membership of over half a million women, extending into almost every city and town in our own land-was and is the literary club. In the beginning these clubs or societies were organized partly because of the opportunity offered for social intercourse, but mainly in case of many older women to supplement the lack of educational opportunities, which prevailed before liberal training was as available as it is today.
The evolution of this idea has been interesting and wonderful. It soon came to be realized that literature is life, and that study and mental culture upon any subject may be classified as "literary." So out of the rather restricted beginning has come not only the study of literature, but art, philosophy, music, science, philanthropy, civics, legislation and many living subjects.
With this advance, however, has come also in many instances the change in the club program, which, while perhaps following the trend of the time, is not wholly advantageous, nor will it build a permanent structure. In the old day before the broader activities of the literary club absorbed the time of its members, the lectures, papers and discussions were wholly the product of the work and study of the individual member of the organization, to her infinite advantage. With the later day has come all too frequently the paid lecturer or the miscellaneous or purely entertaining program.
Doubtless much of this change has been brought about by the hurry and rush of life with its many demands, and the difficulty of giving time for proper research. For this reason this present work appeals, in that it gives interesting and delightful facts without the masses of dry details, while the supplementary reading and study outlines make discussion and investigation a pleasure.
It must never be forgotten that with the other great work of the women's clubs, their highest and best attainment has been the surprising stimulus which has been given to the study of literature, science and history in hundreds of homes and communities, because of the membership and activities of the women of the literary and study clubs, and a work of this nature brings within easy access treasures of the educational and literary world to the busy club member, which will stimulate anew the fundamental idea of the club movement, viz., the Literary Club, which is, after all, the medium through which it has attained its present proportions and great achievements.