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School Programmes

( Originally Published 1897 )



Prescribed Courses.-In a well-organized school a prescribed course of study is pursued by the pupils of each class. Classification would be impossible if each pupil were permitted to select his own branches of instruction. Educationists are fairly well agreed regarding those subjects which, in the hands of the teacher, constitute the principal instruments for training the faculties of scholars. There are certain branches of knowledge that should receive sole attention before pupils are admitted to a High School, and certain other branches that should not be taken up until the University is reached. The curriculum prescribed should be one that has received the approval of those who are competent to determine the relative value of different subjects in the process of mental development. To leave the course of study to each teacher, or to each Board of Trustees, is to ignore the conclusions that have been reached by those who have made a study of the science of education. A definite and well-considered scheme of study is a great help to trustees, teachers and inspecters. It promotes systematic work, furnishes opportunities for comparing results, prevents the introduction of "fads" or injudicious programmes, and secures better skill in teaching. (See Course of Study in Appendix.)

Educational Values.-At one time it was supposed that reading, writing and arithmetic formed a course of study sufficiently comprehensive for all who did not aspire to a secondary education. It was also held that only classics and mathematics had much value as instruments of higher culture. Scientists have for some time proclaimed that their department is of equal worth in mental development, and that the utilitarian side of education has not received due attention. French and German have, of late years, gained a prominent place in courses of study. English is now generally acknowledged to be inferior to no subject on the programme in its importance to all classes of students. The advocates of the various departments have not yet settled their differences of opinion. The conclusions reached in their report by the " Committee of Ten," that all subjects have equal educational value, have not met with general acceptance. The minority view meets with greater favor among those who have read that valuable document. The member who constituted the minority says :

" I cannot endorse expressions that appear to sanction that the choice of subjects in secondary schools may be a matter of comparative indifference All such statements are based upon the theory that, for the purpose of general education, one subject is as good as another-a theory which appears to me to ignore philosophy, psychology, and science of education."

It is useless to debate the relative value of mathematics and science, science and language, or language and history. No one of the great departments of study should be slighted in deciding upon a curriculum. What subjects a student should take up will depend largely upon the kind of training he most needs to develop his higher manhood. This will, in all cases, call for breadth of study and concentration of purpose. Those branches are most service-able to the student that reflect in his consciousness the widest realm of thought and usefulness.

Coordination of Studies. -Mental development requires that each subject of the curriculum should be taken up in its proper order. There is no proper intellectual growth that does not secure harmonious development. Co-ordination of studies is the process of grouping subjects that are closely related. It recognizes that each branch of knowledge has its special value when viewed in connection with all other branches. Co-ordination assumes that human culture cannot be fully promoted if each department, or sub-department, is not commenced and carried on in accordance with its educational value.

Correlation of Studies.-Unity should have its place in the course of study prescribed. Every department of knowledge has its relations to all other departments. To recognize the proper relations of different branches is an important educational problem. The value of acquired knowledge is greatly increased when the necessary bearings it sustains to other fields of experience are clearly understood. Each study is fragmentary by itself, and should be properly blended with every other study. Not only each lesson and the course in each subject, but the entire curriculum, must be marked by unity. If subjects are properly taught, the correlation of studies is a necessity. Arithmetic cannot be fully understood if algebra is ignored. Chemistry calls for certain knowledge of physics. History is inseparably connected with geography and literature. Neither language nor science can be thoroughly mastered without some training in mathematics. Correlation, therefore, assigns each subject such a place in the curriculum as will help to bring to view its universal relations. It is a popular theory that too many subjects are taken up in schools. The impression may be, in some respects, well-founded; but too often it shows ignorance of the science of education. Thoroughness is desirable, but limitation to a narrow curriculum does not guarantee thoroughness. To require a child to give undivided attention to two or three subjects is impossible. Before a pupil reaches the High School his intellectual appetite will not be satisfied with any narrow range of knowledge. To master one subject at a time is a pedagogical absurdity.

"Correlation and Co-ordination.-The doctrine of coordination proposes to arrange the various studies of the school courses along two or three pretty distinct lines, making as frequent connections as possible between the separate lines, and keeping the work of each line in close touch with that of the other lines, so that the rate of progress shall be uniform in all departments of instruction. The lines of study are to be so firmly united that the final outcome shall be a consistent whole of thoroughly assimilated knowledge in the mind of the pupil.

" One line of studies will consist of history, literature, and kindred subjects. This line is concerned with the works and thoughts of man, and may be called humanistic.

" Another line will consist of scientific studies, both physical and biological, and will include geography and kindred subjects.

A third line, in some respects subordinate to the other two, but in the main co-ordinate, will be made up of mathematics and closely-related subjects.

" The formal studies, reading, spelling, writing, drawing, and so on, will be readily united with the first and second lines without making a distinct group. The ethical aspect or purpose of education will be provided for in the humanistic lines of studies, and the practical, business aspect will receive all necessary attention in connection with the scientific and mathematical lines."-Putnam.

"The good teacher seeks to give each class of faculty a fair chance of development. He knows that it is impossible to deter-mine with certainty, very early in a scholar's career, what is the special department in which he is likely to achieve excellence. Nor is it at all necessary that you should know this too early. It has often been said that the ideally-educated man is one who knows something of many subjects, and a good deal of one subject. You are safe, therefore, in fashioning a somewhat comprehensive course, so long as there is unity in it ; and in making certain elements compulsory on all scholars, reserving alternatives and voluntary choice to the later stages of the school life. You thus cast your net over a wider area, and prepare yourself to welcome a greater variety of abilities and aptitudes. You leave fewer minds to stagnate in apathy and indifference, and you discourage the. tendency to attach an exaggerated value to particular subjects, and to indulge in the idle boast of learned ignorance. And if this be done, then when the time comes for specializing, and your pupil comes within sight of the university or of the business of life, you will be in a better position to determine in what direction and for what reason he will do well to direct his energies in a particular channel"-Fitch

Concentration of Studies.-To teach any subject well demands definiteness of aim. The best methods of instruction cannot be secured without concentration. Attention to one subject at a time is a sound maxim in education. If grammar, reading or geometry is the subject to be taught, philology, literature or algebra should not take its place. The thought should be fixed, however, on all the relations of the subject, and so far as may be required other subjects must be brought in to master the one under consideration. In teaching history, for instance, references to geography, literature and civil polity may be essential. At the same time it does not follow that all related subjects are entitled to the same position in the course.

The problem of concentration is not at variance with that of enriching the course of study. As human know-ledge increases, the interrelated facts and forces connected with intellectual and moral development increase in number. In the curriculum of secondary schools, and in that of elementary schools to a greater extent, a few subjects should form the course of instruction. Any related subjects that are prescribed should have their value, mainly on account of the aid they furnish in giving instruction in the principal subjects of the course.

Fixed Courses.-There are some branches of know-ledge that every person should know something about. Reading, writing and arithmetic have long held pre-eminence as the foundation subjects of an elementary education. If the acquisition of knowledge is essential to mental development, it follows that an extensive field is accessible to the pupil who has gained an acquaintance with the three " R's." The elements of natural science necessarily come within the grasp of every observing mind, and history, geography, literature, composition, grammar, drawing, bookkeeping, etc., demand recognition as obligatory subjects of instruction. (See Public School .Course of Study.)

It is evident that up to the requirements for admission to the High School, only a few subjects should be pre-scribed. Every branch of the fixed course should be introduced at that period in the life of the pupil which is warranted by the laws of intellectual growth. So long as the aim is to secure general culture, obligatory subjects must be assigned. It may be that a choice of subjects along the same lines should be permitted in secondary schools, but the leading features of an approved, fixed course should be adhered to until admission is gained to the university; and even then specialization should not allow any neglect of those departments with which the general scholar should be familiar. There is danger of narrowness if special courses are permitted to be taken up at too early a stage. What the country needs is not so much a large number of specialists, as an increased number of persons with broad scholarship and capacities for usefulness.

Optional Subjects.-The requirements for admission to a High School should embrace no optional subjects. The special conditions of the community may perhaps justify some provision for instruction in the elements of agriculture, navigation, or the mechanical pursuits. The Public School is not however designed to fit pupils for particular callings, and therefore the best instruments of culture should constitute the programme to be taken up. In the lower forms of the High School a few options may be introduced to meet the demands of pupils who aim for a more advanced course. For entrance to a University a fixed course, with some choice of options, should be prescribed. (See Courses for Matriculation.) In the last years of his University career, and especially in a post-graduate course, a student should be allowed a wide range of options.

Bifurcation.-This is a term used to indicate the division of the school into two or more branches, according to the special bent or probable destiny of the scholars. In this country, where the educational system recognizes no class distinctions, those who may occupy very different positions are trained side by side. The requirements for admission to the High School should be determined, not so much to meet the interests of pupils who desire to obtain a secondary education, as to give proper direction to the studies of that larger class of pupils who never enter a High School. In like manner, the curriculum for matriculation must have in view the effect on the course of High School pupils generally, rather than the wants of the small number who enter the University. No curriculum can be defended that does not (1) inspire students with a desire to reach the highest rung in the educational ladder, (2) furnish them with sound intellectual and moral training, should they fail to reach the object of their ambition, and (3) render it reasonably probable that the education received will be practical no matter what course is followed in life.

The system of fixed and optional courses (See Courses of Study) in the High School programme meets fairly well the aims and possibilities of all classes of students. Bifurcation makes provision in the same school for pupils who desire to pursue a classical, a scientific, or a commercial course. On economical grounds, such an arrangement evidently has great advantages. In the formation of character, the boy who intends to enter a University will be benefited by coming in contact with those who are to become mechanics or merchants. Grammar, algebra, history and every other subject should be taught in the same way to all students, no matter what calling they are to follow or how far they are to continue the course.

" The Committee of Ten unanimously agree with the Conferences (as to question 7 submitted.) Ninety-eight teachers, intimately concerned either with the actual work of American secondary schools, or with the results of that work as they appear in students who come to college, unanimously declare that every subject which is taught at all in a secondary school should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to every pupil, so long as he pursues it, no matter what the probable destination of the pupil may be, or at what point his education is to cease. Thus, for all pupils who study Latin, or history, or algebra, for example, the allotment of time and the method of instruction in a given school should be the same year by year. Not that all the pupils should pursue every subject for the same number of years ; but so long as they do pursue it, they should all be treated alike."-Report of the Committee of Ten.

The Daily Programme.-System is necessary in the arrangement of the duties of each day. A good teacher always has a carefully prepared programme, in which the times and subjects of recitation and study are well defined.

Regular habits are not cultivated if the work of each day is taken up in some hap-hazard or desultory way. A good time-table, carefully followed, makes the teacher systematic in his work, and prevents friction and irregularity. It makes the pupils also systematic in the performance of their duties, and induces them to prepare their lessons the better for each day. When a good programme is observed there is no time lost, the development is harmonious, and all jarring or discord of conflicting classes is avoided. It is evident no one programme will be suited for all schools of the same kind or grade, but there are certain general principles that should be recognized in the construction of time-tables.

A definite time should be fixed for each class recitation, for every intermission, for short periods of relaxation, and for study. The time to be occupied with a lesson will depend upon the subject and the age of the pupils. Young children will not require lessons more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Half-hour recitations will answer the more advanced classes. Three-quarters of an hour will generally meet the conditions of High School pupils. All studies should have their proportionate share of attention, and the claims of no pupils should be overlooked. There should be, as far as possible, a due alternation of study hours and recitations. The alternation of subjects should secure the restful effort which a change in study affords. A lesson in arithmetic, for instance, might be followed by one in reading, and that again by one in chemistry. The morning subjects should be those of acquisition, and such as require concentration of mind and a fresh and bright intellect. The afternoon subjects might be exercises of reproduction, or. those requiring manual dexterity or affording relaxation. The order of subjects should be, as nearly as possible, the same for each day, and for young pupils the lessons in each subject should be taken up with greater frequency than for older ones. Provision should be made so that any remarks the teacher has to make to the school or any reproof that has to be administered may not disturb the recitations. Some flexibility in the time-table is often valuable, and when the pupils are taught by only one teacher this is readily secured. In a High School, where the work is divided among the staff on the basis of departments, flexibility is not easily obtained, except in so far as will be practicable by two or more of a teacher's subjects for the same class being taken in succession. In providing a daily programme a temporary time-table is often desirable. The programme of the previous term may answer this purpose. Frequent changes are objection-able. A permanent time-table, affording some elasticity, should be devised without much delay. In a well-organized school, unless the curriculum has been altered, the main features of the daily programme should show little modification from year to year.

Time-tables for Ungraded Schools.-In a rural school with only one teacher, and with pupils who vary in their attainments from first to fifth book classes, the construction of a good time-table is no simple problem. Besides five or six classes in reading, there may be three in arithmetic, three in geography, three in grammar and composition, three in writing, two in drawing, two in history, two in literature, one in algebra, one in geometry, one in physiology, one in bookkeeping, etc. Short recitations become a necessity, even for the advanced classes, and unless wise provision is made for seat work, comparatively little can be accomplished.

" Until recently the teacher gave little attention to this point ; thinking that teaching is hearing the recitation, he left pupils to shift for themselves while out of it. But now we understand that the teacher shows at least as much skill, and serves the pupil as efficiently, in providing employment as in hearing the lesson. So that what the pupils are to accomplish during study time must be as definitely put in the programme as the topic of recitation."-Tompkins.

The time-table must show not only how the teacher is employed, but how the pupils of each class should be occupied during each period of the school day. For instance, if some of the junior classes receive reading lessons after the opening exercises, the more advanced pupils may be expected, at the same time, to solve problems in arithmetic. A class in grammar may study the lesson for five or ten minutes before being taught, while pupils in the second book are instructed in elementary geography. The fifth book literature may be taken up while the pupils of the fourth book are preparing their work for the next lesson period. It is possible to take a junior class for five minutes in arithmetic during an interval in a recitation that arises when the pupils are solving a problem. It may happen that the teacher secures a few minutes for another class while he waits to have a short exercise written by the class in history or grammar. Such expedients are well known to teachers of rural schools. To keep all pupils profitably engaged, so as to neglect no class, will tax the skill of the young teacher. Flexibility in the daily programme becomes essential. The order of the exercises will be more easily followed than the exact time. If a class should have to be omitted at the regular time, it may be taken up during some interval that can bet spared from some other lesson. Pupils should never have the impression that a lesson may probably be omitted. The tendency sometimes observed to slight the lower classes, so as to have more time for the higher classes, should be guarded against. If there should be only two or three pupils in the highest class, it would be wrong to give them one-fifth of the time when there are forty other pupils in the school. The interests of the great majority should form a more important consideration than the interests of a small minority. The advanced pupils should be able to do much for themselves, with short lessons and occasional hints from the teacher during the day.

Time-tables for Graded Schools.-It is a comparatively easy matter to arrange a time-table for an ordinary division of a well-graded school. If the pupils are taught as one class, or in one class for most of the subjects, the questions to be settled are the order of the recitations and the time to be devoted to each. There is the additional advantage that any day a subject may be omitted, or the time of the recitation shortened, if this is felt desirable. The programme should be arranged under the direction of the principal, and in a city with several graded schools there should be uniformity in the character of the time-tables. It was a common practice years ago in graded schools to give no time for the pupils to study during the day. The lessons assigned were intended to be prepared at home, and the full time in school was taken up in " hearing " lessons. Better views on teaching have condemned such methods, and the preparation of work in school is now regarded as important a duty of the pupils as is that of engaging in the recitation. The preparation of each lesson, under the teacher's careful direction, should just precede the instruction that is given in the same lesson. The successful teacher shows his skill fully as much in getting his pupils to study wisely as he does in his methods of instruction.

Time-tables for High Schools.-The division of the work among the teachers of a High School, on the basis of departments, renders it impossible to have each subject for every class taken up during the time of the day that would be most suitable. Mathematics would, for reasons already stated, be assigned to the early part of the day, and reading, drawing and botany to the afternoon. It is evident what is desirable cannot be fully carried out. The great number of classes gives too little time to most subjects in a three or four masters' school. The expedients mentioned in the case of an ungraded school are available only to a slight extent. Every experienced High School principal knows, however, that it is often necessary to " slip in " the work of a small class here and there. Short recitations are a necessity in a small school that has not a sufficient number of teachers, and study periods become a regular part of the daily programme. The latter feature is not always an unmixed evil. The students are in this way forced to do more for themselves, and the teacher is compelled to do less " talking," but more effective teaching. The " workers " will get along under good teachers in either a small or a large High School.. In any secondary school, where the pupils of a class are not trained to depend largely on themselves the teaching is defective. It is a lamentable condition when the skill of the teachers, and not the ability and application of the students, is supposed to win honors and gain certificates at examinations.

Recesses -Times for recreation are as necessary as times for labor. For young children, two short recesses of ten minutes each should be taken each half-day. If this cannot be carried out, one in the forenoon and one in the afternoon, of fifteen minutes, should be substituted. The teacher, as well as the pupils, should take the recesses. He should associate with them during the time of intermission In a rural school the younger pupils, if the weather permits, might have more periods of intermission than the larger ones. In graded schools discipline will require the recesses to be taken at the same time for all the classes. In High Schools a break in the work is also needed, or the time for changing classes may afford an opportunity for short intermissions. If classes are sent out for drill or other physical exercises, the relaxation may serve, though imperfectly, the purpose of recess. The restlessness of pupils is sometimes well met by giving the school a few minutes recreation. Occasionally stopping the regular exercises in elementary classes and engaging in a cheerful song or in some calisthenic drill, will restore perfect control and bring order out of confusion.

Records.-Records and reports have their place in the management of a school, but the time of the teacher should not be taken up with what does not conduce to the welfare of the pupils. No records for mere show should be kept, and valuable time should not be consumed in calculating percentages or in striking averages. Statistics of school age, attendance and classification of the pupils should be preserved, and any necessary records that will enable the teacher to know at any time the attainments and progress of each pupil. The registers should be neatly and accurately kept. The records of the progress of the pupils will enable the teacher to systematize his work and to supply a wholesome stimulus for the pupils. School records will furnish, when necessary, a means of supplying parents with the standing and attendance of their children, and will enable new teachers to know something about the attainments of the pupils they are to teach. Any system of records that requires marks to be assigned during a recitation, or that necessitates a special clerk or secretary to be employed by the Board, is to be condemned. If records are properly kept they should aid in School Management, and should cause no large amount of clerical work to become a part of the duties of teachers, trustees, or inspectors. The form of the daily, general or class registers will vary with the kind of school, the system of instruction and classification, and the statistics demanded by the municipality and the State. (See Subsection 6 of Duties of Teachers).



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