Schools - The Outlook
( Originally Published 1907 )
THE keynote of current educational thought seems to have been sounded by Professor John Dewey in his saying that, The school is not preparation for life it is life. Education is to provide for the future needs of pupils by providing for their real present needs. One of the most notable and comprehensive tendencies of secondary education, and of all education, is accordingly the tendency to seek an under-standing of the living, growing persons who go to school; and to treat them in a way to promote their healthy growth. This doctrine is sound at bottom. Persons are the most precious things in all the world ; and child persons are as precious as persons fully matured. In this view we have true humanism. It is a view that makes the school interesting. It is moral; for what is morality after all but fulness of personal life ? It is religious, too. " The knowledge of our-selves," said John Calvin, "is not only an incitement to seek after God, but likewise a considerable assistance toward finding him."
On the one side, such doctrine as this is leading us into individualism. It prompts the demand for free election of studies in the secondary school ; for individualized processes of instruction.
On the other side, the study of development has shown how strangely dependent the individual is on his social relationships. We see, in fact, that there is nothing worth the name of human personality that has not arisen under the stress and strain of getting on with one's fellows. So we have come -to attach new significance to the mere fact that in school many young people come together and have varied dealings one with another. We are seeing that social intercourse is not a mere accident of school education, but one of the chief things in school education.
We may go further, and say that the school is not only life : it is preparation for life. Just because it is life, it looks forward to more life. " The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts." Any life that does not look forward is poor and mean ; and we should make a losing bargain if we exchanged the old school that concerned itself only with the future, for a new school which should concern itself only with the present.
So our secondary education looks forward to the citizenship which awaits all of our students, and consciously prepares them for its duties. Whether they are destined for the more extended training of the university or not,. it undertakes to direct their attention toward public affairs, well knowing that the time is already come for them to take anticipatory interest in such things. It takes account, too, of the fact that each citizen must have a life work peculiarly his own, in order to discharge his full obligation to the body politic. How secondary education may pay due regard to this fact and yet avoid the injustice of binding our youth at an early age to a course in life which may not be rightly their own, is one of the hardest problems with which we have to deal.
May I venture to add, that our secondary education looks to the larger life. It has a thought for life that is above and all about this life. We are finding that the eager adolescence of our academies and high schools is above all skeptical and religious. The two things go together and belong together at this age. Education does not altogether meet the needs of the present life of our youth if it does not verge upon the shadowy fields of things too real to be seen.
The more important tendencies of our secondary education seem to lie in the directions indicated above. Let us now examine them a little more closely.
1. And first some tendencies affecting our courses of study. A recent writer has said that " The time for the finishing school has gone by." With equal truth it may be said that the time for the "fitting school" has gone by. I do not mean by "fitting school" a school for the education of youth who are preparing for college, but rather a school which pre-pares for college whether it educates or not. The proper business of every school is education. The growing recognition of this fact is one of the most marked of present tendencies. The sharp distinction between preparation for college and " preparation for life " is fading out. It seems to be our present working hypothesis that, so far as general culture is concerned, preparation for a higher school, rightly conceived, coincides with preparation for life. This principle may not extend to secondary schools of a vocational character. It can hardly be accepted as a finality with regard even to schools of general culture. But it has stood examination and trial sufficiently well to warrant us in employing it as a working hypothesis.
We may put it in different ways. Secondary education which is not good enough for the purposes of the colleges is not good enough for the purposes of life. Schools of middle grade which fail to give good preparation for life, fail also to give good preparation for college. Either way you turn it, the doctrine calls for some re-examination of our school curriculums, and perhaps for some little change.
In the history of our courses of study, we began with one fixed and strongly unified course for all. The demand for a recognition of varied needs has led to numerous changes from this old, invariable standard. Parallel courses were first offered, each of them fixed and definite. Then options were allowed in one or all of these parallel courses. The number of such courses was increased. The range of options was enlarged. Then we began to hear of the doctrine of free election. This seems to be the polar opposite of that fixed course for all with which we started. It was necessary for us to come to this extreme, and get a survey of the whole movement from this side, in order to find out just where in the intervening territory we belong.
One of the first things that appear from this sort of examination is the fact that English is an indispensable subject in any curriculum. This is admitted by nearly every one, even when it is not admitted that any other study is indispensable. English has taken the place occupied by Latin in the old curriculum. If other single subjects are not essential, we are coming to think that an outlook into certain other broad fields of study is necessary. The Committee of Ten led the way in pointing out this need, and the later Committee on College-Entrance Requirements has formulated a general plan under which the need may be met. In fact, the committee last named seems to have thrown a real Copernican suggestion into the midst of our confusion in this matter. What they have proposed will not differ very greatly in any given case from what is already customary in many schools. But it serves to show how the Ptolemaic tables of courses which many large schools present may be simplified in accordance with ideas which they really imply. Parallel courses with a fair number of options ; election limited only by the requirement of "constants" in groups; and even free election under the direction of an efficient school principal, will all come in practice to pretty nearly the same thing : and what they come to is fairly rep-resented by the recommendations of this national Committee on College-Entrance Requirements.
But what does it all amount to ? We may put the case in some such way as this : Education from the cradle to the grave is largely a matter of keeping good company. For our adolescent, with his vibrations between the desire to be let alone and the extreme craving for companionship, habituation to good company is of prime importance. The school tends to set one free from mere dependence upon the actual companionships of daily intercourse, extending the relation-ship, as it does, to the great and good of all times and all lands. It increases one's capacity for finding companions in the secret chambers of books and in the still more shrewdly hidden secrets of the material world. Our young scholar is a provincial of the provincials. He must now go to court, and come to know the wisest and fairest of this world. He is to be introduced to the best, and among them he may make such special friendships as he is fitted for.
Something like this, I believe, is the significance of Matthew Arnold's saying that in secondary schools the youth is to find " vital knowledge," though we may not make Matthew Arnold responsible for our interpretation of vital knowledge. It is only contact with the world of culture that can bring our young people out of their crude, provincial individuality; that can really vitalize their humanity. They must be brought into relations with that one world of culture, if they are to be made really alive. But they may touch it more intimately at some points than at others, for what is vital knowledge for one is not always vital knowledge for another.
These considerations suggest various conclusions. No study is worthy a place in our programme which has not commanded the full devotion of some master mind. All students must be introduced to the same civilization, and since all are human their several ways of approaching it will not be fundamentally different. What seems still more significant is this : Even if it be true that what is best for one student is a little different from what is best for another, the fact remains that each student needs for his, own purposes a well-organized, unitary curriculum. I fear we are tending toward miscellaneous election from a miscellaneous mass of offered courses. But there is a deeper tendency, which will surely become dominant a tendency toward organic election from what is offered, no matter how miscellaneous that may be. A different curriculum for each student, if you will ; but a real curriculum.
One special question cannot be overlooked the question of the status of classical studies. But little is heard here in these days of the old-time controversy over Latin and Greek in the schools. Perhaps it is because the battle has been won by the opponents of absolute requirements in these subjects. There are many true friends of Latin and Greek who are not friendly to required Latin and Greek ; and the number of schools is now small indeed in which the student may not omit one or both of the classic languages.
It is significant that, at the same time, Latin is greatly on the gain in the schools. The case of Greek is different, and some good friends of classical learning are ready to predict that the study of Greek will at no very distant day be handed over to the colleges. The opening of courses in be-ginning Greek in some of the higher institutions is thought to point in this direction. The fact should not be disregarded, however, that while Greek has not quite held its own relatively, in secondary schools, the actual number of those studying Greek in the schools has greatly increased in the past decade.
On the whole, the enlargement of freedom is not working badly in its bearing on classical studies. If fewer students are pursuing such studies because required to do so or under the pressure of tradition, more are pursuing them from deliberate choice, either their own or their advisers'. And this may be hoped for in the future. It is not simply to be desired that all should study the ancient languages or that an increasing number should study them ; but rather that those whose surest approach to vital knowledge is along the historical line that our civilization has. followed since the north of Europe began to be civilized, shall follow that line freely and whole-heartedly. There will always be in this number a goodly proportion of the choicest spirits among us. It is highly desirable that they should have all stimulus and encouragement to do their best in their own best way ; and it is equally desirable that those whose best approach to vital knowledge is along some other line should be equally encouraged and receive equal stimulus.
Whether through the classic literature or that of the modern languages, English included, or through some study of music and the other arts, a sound msthetic culture should be more generally sought after in our schools. This is especially difficult in the education of our adolescents, with their callow contempt for beauty or equally callow sentimentality. Instruction in the appreciation of art that shall not degenerate into pretty nothings and that shall really touch and teach the soul of youth, will accomplish untold good, and ways will surely be found through which such instruction may actually be given.
Before leaving the question of the course of study, let us glance at the relation of the colleges to the schools. There has been a good deal of just complaint from the side of the schools, that the colleges shaped their entrance requirements solely with reference to what they believed to be their own needs, and not at all with reference to the conditions which must be reckoned with in the schools. Of late we have heard complaint from the side of college men that the secondary-school men were becoming too independent ; that they expect the college to accept whatever they may offer. There is great hope for the future in this growing self-respect of secondary-school teachers. It suggests very pointedly that school and college should meet on common ground and work out their common problems together. It was a bad state of things when the question whether students preparing for college should take one study or another in the secondary school, could be decided by a compromise between rival college departments, represented in a faculty meeting, without a moment's consideration of what might be intrinsically best for the students themselves at this stage of their schooling. College faculties should remember that every vote which they pass relative to entrance requirements is legislation for the internal working of secondary schools. Such legislation should at least be based on some intelligent conception of the nature and functions of the secondary school.
To put it in other words : The question of college entrance requirements is a question of relationship between two institutions, each having its separate responsibility to the public. The college should set the secondary school the example of considering both terms of this relationship with perfect fairness. It has sometimes happened that the men of the academies and high schools have taken a more comprehensive view of this question than have the men of the colleges and universities.
One thing seems reasonably clear; and that is that this question of admission requirements is an educational question, and should be settled on educational grounds. It seems equally clear that the same form of settlement should be employed as that which serves in dealing with the larger question of the proper formulation of curriculums for all non-technical secondary schools. At least for present purposes, the method followed by the Committee on College-Entrance Requirements in this matter seems worthy of general acceptance, although some specific recommendations of this committee are open to objection.
We may draw up a second working hypothesis in some such terms as the following : The interests of higher education will best be served by such prescription of college entrance requirements, and such tests of preparation, as will do the most to vitalize instruction in the secondary schools.
2. There are many reasons why the question of teachers is more important than the question of studies. And the conviction is now well grounded that teachers of secondary schools as well as teachers of primary schools must be specially trained for their work. Twenty years ago this was not true. No one institution has done more to bring American schoolmen to a new mind in this matter than has Columbia University, with its Teachers College. But the pioneering was done by western state universities, and they do not intend to be left behind in a movement which has now become national. Voices will still be heard protesting against the newer demand for professional training on the part of those who would teach in our high schools and academies. But the time is past when such objection can seriously hamper the general movement. Let it be added that the time is past when that movement can be seriously hampered by mistakes and indequacies in the training attempted. But it is necessary that such mistakes and inadequacies be corrected as rapidly as possible, and such correction is now the order of the day.
What do we look for in our teachers ? First, by all means, a moral quality that is more than negatively good some real warmth of loyalty to righteousness ; and, in addition, something that is contagious about it. It is the characteristic that it may be caught by others which elevates it from a merely personal quality to a teacher quality. Secondly, a gracious bearing, in full accord with such morals. A divorce of manners from morals is bad for both. Thirdly, a living intellect. To be such it must be active and must live on substantial food. Fourthly, the disposition to communicate and some aptitude for such communication. Fifthly, a readiness to improve and to cooperate with others in making improvement, which is what we understand by professional spirit.
Some of this must be got by birth or not at all. For such portion, training colleges are in no way responsible. Then there is a great deal to be done by way of improving natural endowments on the peculiarly personal side ; but we only make ourselves tedious when we draw up for prospective teachers classified lists of moral virtues and their contrary vices. Better, so far as these things are concerned, encourage that self-respect which acts frankly its own part, and that respect for excellence which renders one responsive to good example.
We get down to the serious business of training in that which remains, and difficult questions here present themselves. Teaching is an art, and we shall disappoint the expectations we raise if we undertake to teach it wholly as applied science. But it is an art which is steadily drawing nearer to the related sciences. At present it is more scientific than oratory, less scientific than medicine. It must then be mastered as an art, and as very intimately bound up with those personal qualities which it is so difficult to treat of apart from mere subjective sentiment. What sort of instruction is available here, if instructor and student would both maintain a proper self-respect ?
For one thing, the faithful observation of good teaching done by others, as in the German Probejahr. A difficult thing this is to manage. It repays effort, however, if it awakens the conviction that one can learn from the best that is going on near at hand.
" Here work enough to watch
Then practice teaching under guidance. Not enough of this to master the process, however. Such training sets and stiffens like a mould. But enough to enable the beginner to avoid waste of time and of child-material costly stuff in finding his own best way of doing his own work ; enough, too, to discover and cast out the cases of born incompetence.
If the sciences do not yet dominate this art of teaching, as they already dominate the art of medicine, they are having more and more to do with it, especially the sciences of human development. Enough of this our prospective teacher should get to face him hopefully toward the scientific side of things, in confidence that more and more definite guidance in his art will come from that direction. Enough of the philosophy and history of education, too, to help him understand that education is a progressive aspect of human society, to put him in the attitude of co-operation with fellow schoolmen in furthering that progress. Finally, emphasis must be laid, all the time, on soundness of scholarship. The colleges that train our secondary-school teachers should give forth no uncertain sound in their requirement of scholarly excellence. Otherwise they will be likely to fail in the whole of their undertaking. Even the morality of their students the real if not the conventional morality will be uncertain if their scholarly standards are low.
We may be modest in making claims with regard to the professional training toward which the teaching craft of our secondary schools is tending. But many signs show that the tendency is well under way ; and with all of its present imperfections, the training offered is working gradually toward stability, solidity, and effectiveness.
Yet, after all is said, the discovery of teachers is as important as the making of teachers. The fact that so much of the real teacher-quality is inborn gives emphasis to this view. In part this discovery of teachers is the work of colleges and training schools. In part it is the work of superintendents and principals, and they should be highly trained and competent men themselves that they may discharge this duty intelligently. But in a larger sense the discovery is a result of a favorable organization of the whole set of conditions and associations which surround the teacher's calling. We look for real life, and life at its soundest and best, in these secondary schools. To have it, it is necessary that young men and women who represent our American life at its soundest and best, shall be drawn into teaching positions in these schools, and that those who show special aptitude for such work shall find good inducements to stay in it. Such inducements are the opportunity to do their work to good advantage, reasonably good salaries, and such social standing as will encourage self-respect on their part and on the part of their families. It is plain that these inducements are to be provided in part by the action of school trustees and boards of education and in part by the general attitude of the communities back of those boards. The real discoverer is the community, acting under such leadership as it may choose.
But there are other agencies at work. Whatever is done to render education more professional tends to draw toward it men who have professional tastes. In this point of view, the teaching body is the discoverer. Excellence in the profession tends to attract and discover excellence. Every advance in the scientific, historical, or philosophical treatment of education tends to draw to it persons of intellectual taste and ability. In recent years we have seen men turning to education because of the marked improvement of our pedagogical literature. Then, the knitting together of the interests of our secondary schools and universities works in the same direction. In some parts of the country the teacher in a high school finds himself, in a way, brought into the life of the universities. The influence of such a relation is not to be disregarded.
Yet the chief responsibility comes back to boards of control and the communities to which the teachers minister. We cannot urge too strongly upon them the necessity that they discover superior teachers for their secondary schools, by making the teaching positions in those schools such as superior men can accept and hold without loss of self-respect. Within the past few years we have repeatedly seen first-class men throwing up high-school positions in disgust at the petty politics with which those positions were beset, or in despair of being able to provide for their families with the salaries which those positions offered. Such a state of affairs is deadening.
It is difficult to say conclusively whether the general movement of the time is forward or backward in these particulars ; but we have reason to believe that on the whole we are improving. There are many indications that the standard of preparation for secondary-school positions is rapidly advancing. Partly as cause and partly as effect of this change, the general standing of secondary-school teachers in the community seems to be rising. A rapid increase in the number of college graduates seeking high school positions may prevent salaries from rising proportionately with other forms of public recognition, but we need not fear the ultimate outcome of this condition.
Within the universities there is observable a growing sentiment in favor of requiring a minimum amount of graduate work of students who are to be recommended as teachers in secondary schools. It has been suggested that this may lead in time to the recognition of the master's degree as the standard teaching degree. For many reasons this proposal seems worthy of serious consideration.
Speaking broadly, the doctrine that the school is real life may be expected to work to the advantage of teachers and teaching. It puts the school into closer touch with the home, and carries into the school the better standards of the community. The growth of wealth and the sharpening of social distinctions may in some measure negative this tendency ; but in other ways it will be reinforced by those very conditions. It is not too much to expect that the new century will see a new generation of great school-men. If there has been no Thomas Arnold nor Edward Thring in our American schools, we have had many excellent teachers from Ezekiel Cheever down. Let our best men find encouragement and recognition, both public and fraternal, awaiting them within the teaching profession, s,s other men have found in other professions ; and our teachers of world-greatness will in due time appear.
3. Some comparison of the tendencies of public and private education should be made; or, taking the two more characteristic forms, let us consider the public high school a day school on the one hand, and the private boarding school on the other.
The students in the high school are in daily touch with the home life and the general life of the community. In the boarding school the school life is for the time being the whole of life for the students. The disposition to regard school life as real life may be expected, then, to affect in different ways these two types of institution.
The high school is in some respects more in danger of isolation of separation from the real life of its students than schools of the other sort. It is possible for students to have a whole range of interests belonging to the hours not spent in school, and even to think of school interests as relatively unimportant. What more frequently happens is that the outside interests mix in a great variety of ways with those of the school, with a result that is confusing in the extreme.
There is a strongly marked tendency in American communities to permit young people, while yet in the high school, to forestall the social pleasures which a more whole-some taste would reserve for later enjoyment. The aping of college society on the part of high-school students adds to this evil. The distractions referred to are for the most part innocent enough in themselves. But they detract from the seriousness of our secondary education, and tend to a certain pettiness of scholastic attainment.
The students in German day schools are almost as completely removed from the outer world in their hours out of school as if they lived within school walls ; for the school authorities can do much toward regulating the home life in the interest of studies. Our American disposition is against this sort of regulation, and we must seek an American solution of the difficulty.
We have wished to see more of real life in the school, and here we find real life jostling the school in a way that is very embarrassing. The trouble is, however, that the school may be jostled by life without being in touch with life. The first thing, apparently, to be done by way of counteracting this tendency to distraction is to make the instruction in the school more vital to bring it, in other words, into closer touch with the rest of life. The remark is very general, but this is not the place to enter into detail. And there are teachers who are translating the general principle into daily actuality, and making the things of the school more alive for their students than those interests that would attract them abroad. First, then, the instruction in the schools must have more of that living touch with reality. Then the public must be led to a better understanding of the place and need of the school. For this difficulty cannot be fully dealt with by dealing with individuals : it is a public matter and calls for a change of public sentiment. If the people are persuaded that the school is doing work of superior excellence and of immediate significance for real life, it will be able to make its way and accomplish its purpose even in one of our comfortable and happy communities where parents obey their children faithfully.
One thing should be added here : We are coming to understand that the various school societies, literary, musical, athletic, and the like, represent something that belongs to education, because it belongs to the real life of the pupil in the school. We cannot longer treat these things as mere incidents or accidents. The emphasis may be misplaced in many ways in dealing with them, but their integral connection with the other employments of the school must now be recognized.
Referring to the other type of school, we observe that private boarding schools seem divided between two ideals that of the home and that of the college. All such schools must unavoidably be influenced by both of these ideals, though in varying degrees. In general they seem to be tending toward the increase of student responsibility for student conduct. Here, too, many things which were once regarded as side occupations mere time-filling and play are now seen to be vital to the educational function of the school. As regards athletics, we seem to have taken lessons from the English, who have long recognized the rightful interest of the school in the various schoolboy sports. It is significant that continental educators, too, are looking to England in this matter. It may be that football will sup-plant studies in English at the centre of the school curriculum, as English has already supplanted Latin ! That is hardly to be expected ; but the teacher who is hunting for the real boy to teach makes no mistake in the conclusion that a large part of him is on the field engaged in some vigorous game.
Private schools are sometimes organized for the avowed purpose of making experiment, and that usually along the line of some specific educational reform. Much good service has been done by the pioneer work of such schools. But by far the greater number of private schools are notably conservative, preferring to follow good precedent and good leadership. It is to be hoped that with the gradual relaxation of close prescription in college-entrance requirements, academies, and other privately managed institutions will undertake a wider range of judicious experimentation, and so lead the way to improvements in education in which the high schools may be able to follow them.
The possibility of giving special attention to individual needs is one of the chief advantages enjoyed in private institutions ; and there is, perhaps, no particular in which they can do the whole world of education a greater service than in marking out. the most effective methods of individual treatment. Many forms of individual need depend on physical and mental conditions which may be described as pathological. It is in such cases especially that education should add to its tact, science. By extending the application of scientific knowledge to such cases, private schools may point the way which public schools will eventually follow.
There are many signs of growing interest in religious education. The Roman Catholic Church, after many years of effort in the building up of primary schools on the one hand and colleges and universities on the other, is now turning its attention to the establishment of high schools. It is not at all unlikely that a marked increase in such schools may be seen in the near future. Other religious denominations, too, are showing much concern for the establishment of schools for education of a secondary grade. Of course, the religious motive is dominant in this movement.
But the studies of the past decade in the psychology of adolescence have emphasized the significance of religious forces in the stage of development with which all secondary education has to do. It is to be expected that many high-school students will pass through times of great religious unrest which will have an important bearing upon their whole intellectual and moral development. The attitude of secondary-school teachers toward such facts will undoubtedly command a large measure of attention in the years that are just before us.
As the nature of the storm and stress period of youth comes to be better understood, the extreme delicacy of the problem of religious instruction in this period becomes more evident. Teachers in strictly denominational schools discover that their task is not so simple as the mere setting-forth of the doctrines they desire to inculcate. The formal acceptance of doctrines is found to count for little in real life, and particularly at this stage of life ; while personal convictions are all-powerful. The teacher, accordingly, in a religious academy learns to be patient with callow skepticism and to let it run its course. He learns to let the young skeptic take devious paths of speculation, that he may approach the faith in his own way and arrive at settled confidence in his own time. Such a teacher is not inactive, to be sure, but puts in a timely word of caution, information, and sympathetic guidance; persuading the learner, when the occasion is opportune, that his new-recruited wisdom will become more wise when it falls into line with the best wisdom of his fellowmen, and steps out to music that has sounded the march of centuries.
The conscientious and scientific-minded teacher in the public high school cannot be unmindful of the fact that those under his instruction have the same sort of development to go through as those in private and church schools, and that at times the real life they are living from day to day is centred as much in their rising religious and philosophic doubt and aspiration as in their athletic or social interests. And he is at liberty to help them as the teacher in the private school helps his students, except in the one point of the doctrinal content of the religious consciousness. To some, this exception seems to cover everything of capital importance. To others, it seems to relate to an altogether subordinate matter, or a matter that may better be treated apart from the ordinary school instruction, in a separate institution. It is well that free play is allowed under our system for the satisfaction of a wide range of tastes and convictions in this matter. A governmental monopoly is not desirable in any stage of our educational system ; perhaps least of all at the secondary stage. The public schools must be non-sectarian for generations to come probably as long as religious denominations shall exist. And we make no mistake when we regard such schools as constituting one of the crowning glories of our national life, and a strong support of much that is best in our American civilization. But private and denominational schools should be welcomed too, and recognized as having a work of their own to do as supplementing the noble scheme of education under public management, which has been found so well suited to the general needs of our people.
We may hope, too, that fraternal relations between teachers of public and private schools will be more generally cultivated in the future than they have been in the past. Each of these great bodies of teachers needs the help of the other to stir it up in the way of making its instruction more thoroughly educational, which means more true to life. In the religious aspect of secondary instruction the teachers in schools of either type are working under limitation, but under limitation of different kinds. Subject always to such limitation, faithfully observed, all are responsible for helping their students past the danger of permanent skepticism, of mere absence of confidence and conviction ; and toward such faith as shall give to each his best hold on hope and love and righteousness.
So we may say in general : The demand that is growing into some sort of dominance in the concerns of private schools and public schools alike, is the demand that instruction shall strike the note of reality ; that it shall find the real pupil and give him instruction that he can lay hold of without pretence and without precocity. Red blood is going to school, and the school is interested in things that send red blood bounding to young muscles and young brains
And what will be the result to American scholarship ? Perhaps it will be this : That teachers who also have red blood will make more insistent demand for real scholarship, and will get what they demand. The need of improvement at this point is urgent and should not be discounted. But one word should be added : We must be willing to stop short of the highest possible scholarship in our American schools, if that last finish of scholarly excellence cost never so little of the real vigor of American life. The life is more than learning.
We have been considering thus far the secondary school in the light of the doctrine that the school is life. Some of the most significant and far-reaching consequences of that doctrine have not been touched; but we hasten on to another view, which has been foreshadowed, and is not altogether an-other. Our adolescent student is continually reaching out after larger conceptions of duty and opportunity. With him, one wave of subjective egoism is succeeded by a wave of devotion to larger human interests. He may be as much an egoist as ever when he contemplates the glory of self-sacrifice for the good of one's fellowmen, but his egoism is then finding its own corrective. In like manner we turn now to the broad question of the relation of secondary education to public interests, but with no sense of breaking with the doctrine we have been considering.
One of the most notable of recent writers on secondary education is the French sociologist and philosopher, M. Alfred Fouillde. Within the past three years he has made important contributions to the current discussion of the reform of secondary education in France. But his general position was set forth with great clearness, ten or twelve years ago, in his book entitled Education from a national standpoint. This work deals with the schools of France.
We need a full discussion of American education from a national standpoint, or rather from the public standpoint, which includes the national. Doubtless some one will give us such a work in due time. But in these last pages let us glance briefly at some current tendencies as seen from the standpoint of public interests.
The spirit of democracy is abroad in modern societies, whatever their form of government. Rightly understood, it is one of the choicest possessions of our modern civilization. So one of the most searching tests of any educational tendency is its bearing upon essential democracy.
By essential democracy we may understand the spirit which values men according to their manhood.. It is the spirit which judges of men on the ground of inherent worth, and not on the ground of such fortuitous attributes as birth or wealth or mere reputation. Democracy surely recognizes differences among men. It sees that some must lead and some must follow. Its peculiarity is that it seeks by all means to devolve leadership on him who is fittest to lead.
More than this, true democracy recognizes in men a diversity of gifts, such that each man is destined to lead in some things and to follow in others, to lead in some relations in life and to follow in other relations. That is, to lead wisely and to follow wisely are the correlated duties of every man in a democratic society. Democracy in the long run puts the highest price on pre-eminence in each of the several walks of life. It puts a price on pre-eminence of every sort, and teaches every man to respect the different capacities of other men. The question, then, to put to our institutions of secondary education is this : Do they help every student to find himself and his fellowmen ? For a portion of its students, secondary education may share this responsibility with the education of the higher schools. But the responsibility falls upon the secondary school in a peculiar way, for the reason that this grade of instruction deals with a stage of development in which the student is for the first time, as it were, in possession of his complete equipment of instincts, powers, and passions, and is, accordingly, for the first time fairly face to face with his destiny.
1. Now let us attempt to trace some bearings of this view upon current tendencies in our secondary education. In the first place, what are secondary schools doing, and what can they do, to maintain and advance the spirit of true democracy ? I do not see that this question has much to do with the question of social "sets" and all that sort of thing. It is rather a question whether the youth in our schools are learning to value human worth for what it is, and not for what it has, and are learning that they are responsible, each for a social service peculiarly his own. Diversity of education is not necessarily a bar to such instruction ; but every sort of educational snobbishness is its deadly enemy.
In the main, we may safely assume that public high schools are democratic in tone, and serve to reinforce the democratic spirit in our society. But we must not carry this assumption too far. There is need, even in public schools, to guard against the subtle danger of valuing men for something other than what they are. It would be a very great mistake, too, to assume that the tendency of private schools is mainly or even largely undemocratic. It would not appear that such is the case. A large and well-established boarding school certainly has a democracy of its own, which imposes a wholesome check on some forms of exclusiveness.
There is constant need, however, to guard in private schools, and in all schools for that matter, against the danger of artificial standards. Especially do the teachers of private schools which have a reputation for exclusiveness need to guard their students against this danger. There can be no doubt that many such teachers are faithful to a high degree in this matter. And the reward of their faithfulness is this : The knowledge that they are not only promoting the moral uplift of their own students, but are also serving important public ends. I believe there are families whose only hope of getting a breath of real American democratic air is in the training the youth of those families get in schools that educate.
2. M. Fouillee, in the work referred to, contended that the " selection of superiorities " is one chief form of service which the school must render the state. The saying may be accepted with all heartiness. Just because democracy is so easily perverted into a system of " levelling down," the schools need by all means to keep faith with its true spirit, and seek for latent leadership as for hid treasure. As our schools grow in numbers, it becomes increasingly difficult to give special stimulus to those of more than ordinary endowment, that they may make the most of the gift that is in them. The chief gain that we are making in this respect is not seen in any improvement in system, but rather in the more general employment in the schools of teachers of thorough preparation, who are capable of making their instruction generally stimulating.
But democracy does more than demand that the schools shall find and develop natural leaders. It demands that the schools shall find and develop in each pupil his peculiar side of leadership. This is even more difficult than the other. Here, again, the growth of our schools is a hindrance to their efficiency. Here comes in new emphasis on the responsibility of the principals of schools. Here, too, we find some of the good effects of the movement toward the freer election of studies. It has been suggested that the middle-school course be so arranged that at the close of each two-year period the student shall be allowed to make a new election, but that within this period his course shall be relatively unchangeable. There seems to be wisdom in this recommendation. It amounts to this, that at a given time a two-year course be mapped out in accordance with the best knowledge then available as to the student's quality and capability, that he be kept at this course long enough to show whether the choice was a good one for him or not, and that at the end of this period choice be made for the ensuing two years in the light of the experience of the past.
This would make the course of training a continued trial of the student's quality with a view to finding his best. And that, indeed, is what every secondary course should be. By some such means we might save many misfits in life, without running into those endless term-to-term readjustments which only render a course of instruction jerky and generally hysterical. It is something like this that the Germans are trying to do under the Frankfort plan, but that plan provides for three-year periods instead of two. The fact that this tendency is international emphasizes its importance. It is, in truth, the current form of the demand that secondary education shall help the student to find himself. The demand has come from the psychological side of education. It comes now from the national side.
Such a system as this could be made much more effective in a six-year or an eight-year high school than in our four-year schools. The tendency toward an extension of the secondary course upward and downward can barely be referred to here. It is as yet more a tendency of thought than of practice. Yet we see some signs of its finding its way down to the ground. It is not unlikely that we shall have, side by side with our present system, numerous experiments with secondary schools which take in the last year or two of the present elementary course, and with the same or other schools so organized as to cover the first two years of the present college course. It is very desirable that such experiments be made. In the making of such experiments, it would seem possible for private schools to render one more important service to our secondary education. And we can be content to let the matter work itself out under the wisdom taught by experience.
But there is another tendency of large significance, which has to do with the effort to find for every citizen his place of most effective service. That is the movement which is giving us vocational schools of secondary grade.
We seem to be coming to a more general and insistent demand that men shall have training for their work in life.
Since the breaking down of the old order of trade gilds and apprenticeship, the need of regular training has long been obscured. There is an American notion of long standing which has added to this obscurity the notion that special training for any particular service is a reflection on the brightness of the person trained. If he had gumption, he would be able to do his work without having to learn how to do it. This does not seem to have been the colonial view, but it grew up rather in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. This crude conceit is now passing away. Training of the highest sort is provided in the professions, particularly in medicine. Teaching still lags in this respect, but is trying to catch up. The several forms of engineering are already firmly placed on the platform of technical training. As regards the trades, progress has been slow, but progress has surely been making. The idea of specific training has reappeared, but in a different world from that of the trade gilds with their system of apprenticeship. It is a world of schools. When this age undertakes to rebuild the old mediaeval conception that each man shall be master of his own craft, it will do it through a system of trade schools. In fact, this seems to be what we are coming to a view of public education which plans to make the schooling of every pupil culminate in training for some occupation in life. We shall say to our youth : " You have left school before school is out if you have not begun to learn in school to do your daily work."
Vocational training is to be postponed as long as possible. It is to rest upon the most extended general schooling which the individual can get. And each of these types of education is to shade off into the other ; each is to reinforce the other. The ideal of useful occupation will ennoble the more general instruction of the lower schools, and the ideals of liberal education will ennoble the school of trades. The future artisan will be encouraged to be as much of an artist as he can be. All this may seem but a dream. And some of it may be only what Ruskin or William Morris dreamed quite half a century ago. Yet it may not be the worse for that, and in any case it may stand till something better is proposed.
The movement toward vocational training, however it may be organized, is already upon us, and it seems reasonable to believe that the enormous expansion of high-school attendance in this country of late, with the attendant effort of the schools to meet the needs of all, is in part a gathering up of the forces of our American youth preparatory to a more general mastery of the daily business of life. How far the specific training for distinct occupations should be given in schools under public control is, however, a question unsettled as yet. The full cooperation of schools of many sorts will be needed : of that we may be sure. The growth of secondary schools of a technical and commercial sort is, in fact, bringing with it a whole new set of problems. We cannot consider them here. Within the next few years the discussion of them will very likely fill a large place in our educational literature.
Three principles which have been roughly blocked out in this chapter may now be recapitulated side by side : First, the general culture of secondary grade which is needed for life, is practically identical with that which best fits for the higher education. Secondly, the colleges will serve the real interests of higher education by such entrance tests and requirements as will best promote the general, educational efficiency of the secondary schools. Thirdly, the schooling of each individual should be carried as far on the lines of general culture as his circumstances will permit but in any normal case to the end of the elementary-school course, and in no case to the extreme of lifelong dilettante-ism ; and should then be rounded out with specific preparation for some worthy occupation in life. I take it that these are principles which will influence our secondary education within the next few years. No one of them can be accepted as a finality. They are working hypotheses, subject to correction as we go along.
3. Our secondary education, then, is meeting a public need in the promotion of real democracy, and in helping individuals to find their field of most effective service. In the third place it is meeting a public need in the largest sense by promoting a wholesome civic spirit. Those who are experimenting with schemes of self-government in high schools are aiming, among other things, to create an intelligent interest in municipal affairs. The study of American history and civil government is taking a larger place in the high-school curriculum. The neglect of these subjects in the past has been one of the most striking anomalies in our courses of instruction. American literature is also receiving ample attention in both elementary and secondary schools.
The emphasis thus laid on the national spirit in our schools is not peculiar to this country. It is characteristic of our time. The tendency which it represents calls for strong approval. I trust I shall not be misunderstood when I add that local or even national spirit cannot be regarded as the final and absolute end of our education. We are living in an age when nationality is seen as the ultimate object of patriotism. But that age is passing. The strenuous effort of the German emperor to make the German Gymnasium more intensely national is only one indication of this fact. It can hardly be doubted that we are moving toward a time when our country will be the world, and patriotism will mean devotion to the interests of mankind. The growing importance of international law, the advance of international co-operation, the gradual unification of the ideals of civilization, and a hundred other indications point in this direction.
It is no utopian view that is here presented. The progress referred to is slow; but it has been mightily accelerated within the memory of living men. The time to live and die for one's country is not past ; it will not pass in our day; but just as surely as in times gone by the voice of patriotism has called men to fight for their nation as opposed to a rebellious section, just so surely a time will come when the voice of patriotism will call men to fight for humanity as opposed to any nation that rebels against the general interests of humanity. Our highest aspiration for our country is not that it shall overcome others that it shall make itself the biggest nation among a crowd of envious lesser nations but rather that it shall contribute most to the realization of that higher "federation of the world."
So the tendency of our secondary education which will in the end promote the truest patriotism, is the tendency to look to the highest good of all mankind. This is only another way of saying that as our schools grow more national they should also grow more truly humanistic. The older humanism was devotion to an ideal, to be sure, but an abstract ideal. The newer humanism of the schools cannot well dispense with the best that the older humanism had to offer. But it will cease to be abstract. It will call forth a spirit of devotion, not to an ideal republic of the past, but to the commonwealth of the present and the greater commonwealth of the future.
The youth in our secondary schools are ready to be swayed toward either intense selfishness or the most generous self-devotion. The best that the schools can do to guard them against self-centred commercialism, is to awaken their enthusiasm for some ideal good, which has power of appeal to the imagination. Literature and history can make such appeal, by awakening the sentiment of patriotism. And they will make this appeal at its best when they give our youth some glimpses of the larger patriotism, of the universal good, which we hope to see our country serving in the days that are to come, as no nation has served it since the nations began to be.
So we may look to see humanism as dominant in the schools of the twentieth century as it was in those of the sixteenth ; but a new humanism, leaning more and more on science, mindful of the past, patriotic in the present, and looking hopefully forward to the larger human interests that have already begun to be.
But the subject is a large one, and many aspects of it which will appear to some of paramount importance, must be passed without discussion or even without mention. Stress has been laid on some of the chief tendencies, already observable, which offer good hope for the future. Broadly speaking, the dominant movements may be seen in the effort to put life, real life, fulness of life, into the school ; and in the effort to make the school minister in the largest sense to the public good. These efforts tend, for one thing, toward greater flexibility in our courses of study, but also toward something more than flexibility. Our boys and girls belong to the highest form of life, and it is a vertebrate course of study that they require.
These efforts tend to emphasize the importance of making and discovering real teachers. President Benjamin Ide Wheeler has said, "I am convinced that teachers are not exclusively born." We have only to add that teachers, both born and made, must needs be discovered.
They tend further toward co-operation and division of labor between public and private secondary schools, in meeting somewhat of the religious need of adolescents ; and in promoting that sort of democracy which knows that
" A man's a man for a' that."
They tend toward the practical recognition of the doctrine, to every man his work and preparation to do his work.
They tend toward nationalism which is not so much the nationalism of " My country, right or wrong," as the national-ism of "My country for the enlightenment of the world."
The consideration of tendencies in secondary education just now brings us near to the very heart of our civilization. For the past ten or twelve years we have seen middle-school problems occupying a central place in the thought of the great culture nations. We have had a decade or more of middle-school reforms. The great milestones in the progress of these reforms have been the December Conference at Berlin in 1890, and the revision of the Prussian curriculums which followed ; the report of our own Committee of Ten in 1893 ; the report of the English Parliamentary Commission on Secondary Education in 1895, and the establishment of the English Board of Education to give effect to recommendations which this commission presented ; the report of the Committee on College-Entrance Requirements, of our National Educational Association in 1899 ; the report, in 1899 and 1900, of the commission appointed by the French Chamber of Deputies ; the Brunswick Declaration and the Kiel decree, of 1900; the establishment of the College En-trance Examination Board and the Commission on Accredited Schools in the year just past. It is a most remarkable record, and warrants the belief that we have just been passing through one of the greatest formative epochs in the history of secondary schools. In America it has been, not a time of crisis, as in the nations of Europe, but rather a time of unparalleled progress. In 188990 less than three-fifths of one per cent of our population was enrolled in our secondary schools ; in 18991900 nineteen-twentieths of one per cent was so enrolled, and in eighteen states this proportion was more than one per cent. If the figures at hand are correct, this is by far the largest proportion of any great people to be found pursuing studies of this grade, Prussia showing a little less than one-half of one per cent and France a trifle less than Prussia.
It is the public high schools that have done it. While the percentage of the population in private schools increased in the decade from 0.23 to 0.25, the percentage in the high schools increased in the same period from 0.36 to 0.70. It is evident that the high school has come to be an immensely significant factor in our American life : raising our standard of living ; giving currency to higher ideas and ideals ; sending great numbers of our young people on to the universities and so accentuating in our age the character of a university age ; increasing the range of selection in all occupations calling for the intermediate and higher grades of intelligence ; and forcing the wider differentiation of our curriculums by the very immensity and variety of the'demands for instruction which must be satisfied.
It becomes in an important sense the mission of our secondary schools to help our people of all social and industrial grades and classes to understand one another, for they help the schools of all kinds and grades to understand one another. Especially is this true of the public high school, which lays its hand directly upon both the primary school and the university.
It is a great thing, this promoting of a good understanding between all classes of our citizens. There will be times of crisis when it will be a paramount concern in our national life. We can view with patience even the bungling work occasionally done by politically minded school boards in dealing with our high schools, when we realize that in just this way our demos, of which we are all a part, is working toward an understanding of an institution which in many lands the demos neither tries nor cares to understand. Even through temporary mismanagement of our higher educational institutions our people are coming to understand one another, and through better management they are coming to a better understanding.
It takes wisdom and patience and poise and unbounded good-will to discharge the responsibilities of an intermediary position such as is occupied by our middle schools. But if such graces shall abound in the teachers and managers of the schools, these will deserve well of their country ; and even though we are a democracy, we shall not be wholly ungrateful.