The Function of the School
( Originally Published 1897 )
Correct Views Needed. - In order to know how to manage a school well, it is important to have right views regarding what is to be accomplished. Every person active in educational work should understand the nature and extent of his responsibilities, and the means by which his duties are to be performed. One of the chief causes of failure in teaching is the lack of well-defined purpose on the part of those entrusted with the training of pupils. A knowledge of the end to be reached determines the means to be employed, and directs aright the methods to be used. A wrong view of education leads to bad school management, and this produces bad teaching, bad discipline, bad training. Without a proper conception of the ends to be sought, the principles to be followed, and the methods to be adopted, in managing a school, there can be no ideal, no distinct aim, and no right appreciation of the value of the teacher's work. The function of the school, its responsibilities and its limitations, are matters that should be understood by the practical educationist.
School Management.-School Management is that department of the Science of Education which treats of the best means of directing school affairs so as to secure efficiency. It includes not only school economy, but also school discipline and school ethics. It has for its object the regulation of all school work, and embraces all that pertains to the training given by the teacher. The organization of the school, the government employed, the programmes of study taken up, the methods of instruction adopted, the examinations held, and the promotions made, are all included in what the term implies. The school buildings and furniture, the use of textbooks, attention to records, as well as the duties of inspectors, teachers, trustees and pupils, are matters connected with the same department of education. The scope of School Management is therefore very extensive, and many volumes would be needed to convey a fair knowledge of its details. In a more restricted sense, it merely includes a knowledge of those principles of the Science of Education which will enable the teacher to direct intelligently the forces at his command. In other words, the principles and general methods by which pupils are taught and governed, are what it mainly embraces, and the teacher is successful in the Art of Teaching, who trains children to be symmetrically developed men and women, in a physical, intellectual and moral sense. Certain modes of procedure, based on the Science of Education, have come to be recognized by educators as means for securing good results. An account of these methods, together with any practical rules drawn directly from scientific considerations, or suggested by experience, forms the subject matter of the Art of School Management. It should be felt, however, that no mere knowledge of practical rules can be of much service to the teacher who does not make himself acquainted with the principles upon which they are based. Education is both a science and an art, and in the work of the school-room the principles of the former, and the rules of the latter, are inseparably associated.
The Science of Education.-The Science of Education, upon which School Management is based, is very complex in its nature. Its principles are drawn from many different branches of knowledge. It has, besides, its own peculiar sphere of investigation, and it includes a great variety of truths which concern the growth and development of mind and body. It helps us to analyze mental processes and the laws of human progress, to discover causes of social conditions and sources of national greatness, and to unfold to the practical educator the means by which his work may be successfully accomplished. It has a complex practical problem to solve. It aims to do certain valuable work for the individual and the community. It points out rules, methods and principles for the accomplishment of its object, and thus embraces the Art of Teaching. It strives to find out a rational basis for the use of such rules as experience has justified. It seeks to bring to light the philosophic truths of psychology, physiology and ethics, and thus to secure fall recognition of what is needed to make better teachers. Its value cannot be ignored unless teaching is to be regarded as the work of the empiric, and methods of instructing and modes of governing are to be. considered as a collection of ingenious devices.
It follows that education to the teacher becomes an applied science, and the more thoroughly he masters the principles to be employed, the more successfully will he perform his work. A knowledge of School Management secured by a mere study of methods, leads to mechanical teaching, weak discipline, and defective intellectual and moral results.
Education.-The definition of education depends upon the point of observation, and the particular object intended to be gained. The utilitarian, the moralist, the philosopher and the statesman will, in each case, have his own ideas en the question. The subjects of the curriculum that afford culture or training, and those that have a more direct bearing on the practical side of life, have their respective advocates. Teaching that best prepares pupils to make a living satisfies many 'persons ; but a broader outlook holds that man cannot live by bread alone. The command, "Be ye perfect," expresses the goal to which each should aspire in the process of self-education, and the aim of the teacher should be to prepare his pupils for perfect living, and this includes the promotion of continuous efforts for self-improvement. In its full sense, education calls for the harmonious development of all the powers of body and of mind. Complete education will embrace the training, by appropriate exercises, of the physical and mental faculties. This will necessitate the acquisition of such knowledge as will benefit the individual and the community. The child is not to be trained primarily to become a member of any particular sect, calling or profession. However important these matters may be, they are only of secondary consideration to the teacher. The chief object he should have in view is that of training each pupil to become a man or a woman in the highest sense of the term. Any narrow conception of the scope of education limits the horizon of the educator, and restricts the application of those principles upon which every efficient system of instruction is based.
" The purpose of education is to give to the body and to the soul all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable."-Plato.
"I call a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously all the offices, both public and private, of peace and of war."-Milton.
" Education is the preparation for complete living." - Spencer.
" Education is the preparation of the individual for reciprocal union with society ; the preparation of the individual so that he can help his fellow-men, and in return receive and appropriate their help. "- W. T. Harris.
Kinds of Education.-To reach full development the child passes through a complex process. This process is harmonious, beautiful and consistent, but it is varied in its nature. The varieties of education are parts of what must be combined in due proportion if the result is to be complete. If any essential department of education is neglected, the effect will be harmful or disastrous. The fully educated person has stored his mind with knowledge in such a way that his intellectual faculties give him skill and power. His moral nature is so developed that he has a delicate appreciation of duty, and a will that readily responds to the dictates of an enlightened conscience. His body has been trained to perform its functions in obedience to the intelligent demands of his moral impulses. He has, besides, recognized his relationship to his Maker and to his fellow-beings. In addition to these essential features of a general education, he has, so far as his ability and opportunities will permit, received such special training as will fit him for the position in which he is placed as a member of society. It is evident education has many sides, but it is convenient to speak of it under the heads here enumerated, viz.: (1) Religious Education; (2) Moral Education; (3) Intellectual Education; (4) Physical Education ; and (5) Special Education. The first of these is chief in importance ; but, as will be shown hereafter, it does not come within the range of ordinary school work. Special Education, except in a slight way, has also no place in the programmes of elementary or secondary schools.
Means of Education.-All the influences in life that go to form character are the means that give a person his education. In early infancy the child is educated by the experience gained through the natural activity of the instincts. The simple knowledge acquired in childhood develops mental activity, and the exercise of the intellectual and physical faculties forms habits. Under the guidance of parents, influences of a potent kind are brought to bear on the plastic nature of the child. If these influences are exercised with definite purpose, and in a methodical and otherwise judicious manner, a great and good start has been made before the school days have begun. Impulses that are the product of the home, of association with young companions, and of the environment generally, soon mould the nature of the child. Self-education commences before school life is entered upon, and continues to be the main process in every educational force. In the school the intellectual faculties are exercised under the intelligent guidance of the teacher, and the moral convictions are formed or strengthened. In his intercourse with society in his own reading and reflection, and in his relations with the Church and other organizations, the opinions and habits of the pupil are powerfully directed. His training does not end when he leaves school. The education which is carried on in mature years, when the full possession of his mental powers has been gained, further determines his character as a man and the position he will occupy. The more commanding his position in life, and the greater the demands made on his mental faculties, the more continuous will be the forces that make for higher intellectual development.
Scope of School Education.-School life has to do with various aspects of the nature of the child. To promote his moral well-being comes first in value. His intellectual faculties are cultivated in order that he may readily acquire such knowledge as will enlarge his powers and increase his skill. In view of the dependence of mental development upon bodily strength, the school must give due attention to physical culture (Chapter II.). Human happiness, as well as human usefulness, depends largely upon the cultivation of the moral nature. Intellectual exercises should be carried on at all times with the object of building up character. As will be shown hereafter (Chapter V.), good teaching implies good moral training; but it is well known that the intellect may be sharpened while the moral nature is blunt. There can be no sound cultivation of the moral faculties that does not enlist in its service the intelligence of the pupil. A mere apprehension of the rules of conduct, without a rational conception of righteousness, will never raise a person high in the scale of moral dignity. When the intelligence is exercised regarding moral principles, and when these principles are actually tested by daily applying them, they become more pregnant with meaning, more commanding in obligation, and therefore more serviceable as guides through life. Harmonious development demands that other agencies than the school should perform their functions. The duties of parents or those of the Church cannot be thrown on the teacher. Religious, moral, intellectual and physical education should be carried on concurrently; but this does not imply that the scope of school education is the same in each case. It is not the province of the teacher to prescribe the food necessary for the soul any more than it is to prescribe the kind of food which parents should give to their children for the nourishment of their bodies. A want of due recognition of the function of the school, and a tendency to ignore the other educational agencies, have given rise many times to gross misconceptions and unreasonable expectations.
Limitations.-The school is limited in its functions; and, as a consequence, the responsibility of the teacher, though great, has also its limitations. The school is a powerful agency in mentally and morally enlightening the people. It is desirable to magnify the calling of the teacher, but the practice of measuring his worth by the success of a few brilliant pupils should be deprecated. In this respect the teacher is exposed to great temptations. The public have not a ready means of measuring a teacher's worth by the highest standards. The best work is not always noticed. Honors won and certificates gained by the bright members of the class are too often the only tests appreciated (Chapter XVI.). As a teacher sows, so will he reap. The desire to turn out clever pupils as graduates of his school is not to be ignored, but the teacher who puts forward success of this kind as the chief criterion of his ability, may find his value estimated by his own standard when failure comes to students of his school who have weak intellectual powers.
It is not the function of the school to furnish brains to children. " Education can improve nature, but not completely change it," was the opinion of Aristotle. No educational process can draw out what is not in the mind. The most skilful teacher has no philosopher's stone to turn into gold what is only lead. The average pupil is not a genius. It is not in the power of the school to create, but to strengthen and improve. The child at birth is not without inherited tendencies. Failure to recognize this fact has led to many disappointments in education.
The function of the school is not to supersede, but to supplement, the education of the family. It is bound, so far as opportunity allows, to maintain equally with the parent, the pupil's bodily strength. It must foster the growth of morality, which it is the duty of parents to implant, and must make up, so far as possible, for any defects in parental discipline. It must strengthen with due prudence religious sanctions (Chapter IV.), as the only sound basis of morality, and never use any means that would arouse denominational hostility.
It is not the function of the school to train pupils for special callings in life. What occupations pupils should follow may often need guidance, but in no case should the Public School be made an institution for fitting pupils for any particular trade or profession. Doubtless the success of students in school will often determine the course subsequently taken up; but mental development necessarily gives greater choice in deciding upon a future career, and in any country with an efficient school system, aspirations and ambitions are not only to be expected, but to be commended.