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that courses of study and requirements in them are too rigid. The long specialized courses are well enough in theory and practically they are satisfactory for perhaps 25% of those who take them, but such a wastage is too great to make them anything but an educational crime. They have the further weakness that if the pupil changes his plan after starting on one of these courses, he can not without great inconvenience change his course.
Every teacher knows that the problem of teaching is not how to teach bright pupils but how to keep the dull ones from holding the class back. Dull pupils almost always consume a greatly disproportionate part of the time of instruction in having their difficulties explained and in waiting for their slow coming answers. Any scheme of education which furnishes a solution of this difficult matter or approximates to furnishing one is worthy of close examination.
When pupils enter on a new study it is not easy to tell in advance whether they are going to meet many difficulties or are to make steady and easy progress. Some pupils will develop unexpected interest and strength while others will be more or less confused and overcome by the obstacles they meet. No one can be quite sure in advance what will happen.' The probability is that pupils that have been strong intellectually and physically before will continue to make rapid progress, and that those who have been slow and weak in learning will continue to be laggards. Besides this one also the following seem to be rules of pretty general application: With rare exceptions bright pupils have some point or points of weakness, and weak pupils have some one or two studies in which if they do not excel they can at least make a good standing.
At the end of a few months a teacher of a class can almost invariably make a division of its members into three sections: Section I, containing strong pupils who regularly do good work; Section II, pupils who while not strong do fair to good work and at any rate do not hold the class back by their dulness and slowness in the study; Section III, pupils who have not mastered the elements of the study as they went along, are getting little or no comprehension of what they study and are dragging the class back by their dulness and lack of interest. One of three things can be done with this third section; it can either be continued on in the class, demoted, or transferred to another subject. Usually it is continued because it can not be demoted.
Thus we see the present system is too liberal in allowing pupils to select their courses and too strict in continuing them in these courses once started in them.
The early specialization of courses in the high school seems to be an outgrowth of the old classical course in colleges which was followed later by other specialized courses that divided the field with it. But the first years of the high school course is too early a time to specialize much. What is needed is a broad foundation. If Latin, mathematics, English, science and history are all essential for a satisfactory educational groundwork, then all should be taken by every pupil. Ex-President Taft asserted at a recent educational gathering that American youth are often as much as three or four years behind German youth of the same age. He accounted for this in part at least from the fact that in this country there is too much freedom of choice given the pupils and not enough definite requirement of essentials from all.
The English language is an unique one among modern tongues. The Roma
The Romance languages came directly, speaking broadly, from the Latin. The Teutonic language or languages are complete in themselves. It is only the English language that may be described as bilingual. The significant words in common every-day use by the masses are perhaps about equally divided between the Anglo-Saxon and Latin languages as regards their source. But here arises a very curious truth, viz., that while the Anglo-Saxon words almost without exception carry pictures with them more or less vivid, the Latin words on the contrary rarely do. Thus, in the preceding sentence the words, fact, exception, and vivid, convey to the English reader no root pictures to make more real their meaning. The Anglo-Saxon all do carry such picture meaning. An American child at play, even before he enters school, picks up all the important Anglo-Saxon words with their root pictures. The philos
. opher at his desk, on the other hand, may have to look up in the dictionary the root meaning of a common English word derived from the Latin to make sure he is using it correctly in some new environment of words. It must be tolerably clear to any one whose vision is broad that a study of English beyond the most elementary ground should include some study of this all-embracing language. There is no occasion here for giving other reasons besides the one described from among the numerous reasons for the study of Latin. The reader may fill these in for himself. It is sufficient to make the claim without fear of contradiction that every secondary pupil who knows some Latin is helped thereby in his English. It is conceded that persons who know nothing about Latin do not feel the need of a knowledge of the language. It is only those who have looked most carefully into this matter who appreciate fully the importance of this study to the average man.
Webster felt called on to put these root meanings foremost in his dictionary. Even the war news nowadays is in precise language. One unfamiliar with Latin misses a part of nearly every sentence in this news. Herein doubtless lies one of the most forcible reasons for the average reader preferring criminality, gossip, and light matter generally to matters of weight. To the difficulty of understanding the subject matter itself is added a vagueness due to the words used. Anyone who has ever read any foreign language knows what this means. Matters of state concerning which the ultimate decision lies with this reader as a voter are past over by him for the same reason.
But if specialization is emphasized too much early in the high school course, it is not emphasized enough at the end. This comes about from classes carrying too much dead weight of weak material. The specialized courses at the last should contain only the cream of the school as re
gards ability along the special line. As it is now, pupils are held in the courses long after their limit of ability to appreciate what they are at work on has been exceeded. Having put their hand to the plow of a certain course, the aim is to finish it, not finish it well. Tho they may be doing passable work, their real function is to hold back the brightest pupils from doing their best. The outcome is that altogether too low a standard of scholarship is attained and specialization has become more or less of a failure at both ends of the curriculum.
The third topic referred to above relates to the subject of adaptation. The question is, can students be adapted to courses as well as courses be adapted to students? Can courses be constructed with the idea of doing the greatest good to the greatest number? Can pupils be switched from these courses as soon as it becomes evident that they are not profiting as they should from their work, and that without loss? Can major and minor courses be arranged in a practical way without prohibitive cost which will offer the option of major and minor courses in the different studies, so that if a pupil is found to be weak in a subject and not much interested in it, he should take the minor course and save time for another study?
By the title adaptation, used at the head of this article is meant the selection of a course of study best suited to the needs of pupils without reference to long courses of study, and after that the continuous adaptation of courses to pupils and also pupils to courses thruout the whole curriculum, this object being attained in the following way:
1. The giving to all pupils a broad training covering more or less work in all the cultural and vocational subjects so that each pupil is tested along the various lines of interest and ability.
2. The arrangement of courses of work in such a way that neither those who drop subjects to take up others nor those who continue on with them will have their best interests affected nor will be losers by this plan.
3. The securing the requirement that pupils shall special
ize along some line as by the present plan of continuous course suited to the needs of the different classes of pupils.
4. The arrangement of major and minor courses in certain studies such as history, so that either a major course or a minor can be taken, the major course to be a continuation of the minor.
5. The appointment of a council whose duty it is to transfer pupils from courses of studies in which they are not succeeding to others. Such transfers should be made from the advice of either teacher or pupil and preferably with the consent of both.
6. In case of change of plan, pupils to be allowed to go back and make up work found too hard for them when first taken, in case this seems advisable to the council.
Undoubtedly the first impression of administrators would be that whatever the advantages or defects of such a plan are, it would be impossible of execution. On the face of the matter the difficulty would seem to lie, first, in the framing of courses in such a way that neither those who drop out of them nor those that remain in them would suffer educational loss, and, second, in the resulting complexity of the program of studies. Of these two, doubtless, the latter would cause the greater trouble.
As regards the first of the above-described difficulties, it would have to be recognized at the outset that the work in studies and courses would have to be entirely rearranged and changed to suit the new plan, but this would present no insuperable difficulty, perhaps in many instances no difficulty at all. Probably Latin and mathematics would offer greater difficulties for this plan than any other subjects.
Such a course in Latin as that proposed here could well begin with the formal memorizing of Latin prefixes and suffixes and roots which are the base in the more common English words derived from the Latin. This knowledge could be immediately applied and a study of English carried on at the same time in the reading of some English classic abounding in common Latin words. As regards learning Latin, this would be going from the known to the unknown;