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develop the spirit of co-operation. Recreative evening lectures, which never fail to draw when the magic lantern is an accompaniment, will do much to relieve the long winter evenings in the country from dullness, while to combat alcoholism there is the teaching in the day school and adult classes, enforced by the work of temperance societies. All the agencies named, as the report shows, have been set in motion by the government, but in spite of the admirable organization of the system, and the ardor with which teachers and officials have entered into the effort, it is difficult to sustain these auxiliary works outside the towns. It is, after all, by the steady pressure of systematic education that society must be transformed, and on the educational side the most hopeful outlook for rural France is the recognition of this truth. Hence the new impetus given to the higher primary schools, the efforts to retain pupils by specializing the instruction, the founding of practical schools of agriculture and of farm schools, both closely co-ordinated to the primary schools and answering somewhat to our own land-grant colleges, tho of much narrower scope.
Above all should be noted the growing conviction that the gap between primary and secondary education, so called, must be closed up, and the sense of a common national purpose infused into both. This lesson in particular the English investigator commends to his own country. "We shall probably have to copy the French,” he says, “in creating schools in waste places, which, as they will cater for a still higher class than those who refuse to enter the French higher primary schools, will have, of necessity, to be christened secondary. We must further recognize, as they, that country secondary education ends at sixteen or at the latest seventeen, and largely modernize the curricula of most of our country grammar schools.
By embracing in one view the threefold aspects of the rural problem—the economic, social, and educational—the report emphasizes the limits of the school while disclosing its highest service as a transforming agent. Tlie rural school is not a panacea for the “ills of the country-side.” It has a mission in common with the city school. “ Apart from its local obliga
tions,” says our author, “stand its higher duties toward the nation and toward humanity. It strives, as much as it can, within the brief season of the school life, to give the child in a shortened and intelligible manner the experience of the race, because he will one day be a man, and the experience of the nation, because he will one day be a citizen. . . Because time presses and we wish to give the child not merely hearsay knowledge, or charge his memory with a mass of loose and uncorrelated facts, next to forming his character and awakening his intelligence we aim, above all, at equipping him with the tools of learning-reading and writing and ciphering." The successful achievement of this purpose, even in obscure rural districts, is the abiding outcome of the French primary system. Should its admirable organization be effectively used for promoting special agricultural training it would still remain true, as impressively stated by this keen observer in the application of the lesson of this system to the needs of his own country, that “if the pupils on leaving the school do not find a fair field at home for the aptitudes and aspirations thus developed, the best of them will depart and the bias given by the school“ will be simply thrown away.”
ANNA TOLMAN SMITH BUREAU OF EDUCATION,
WASHINGTON, D. C.
As a means of imparting information the academic lecture has the approval of centuries, and occupies an important and conspicuous place in modern university teaching. There is a widespread feeling, however, shared alike by teacher and student, that lectures are on the whole irksome and unprofitable. The teacher seeks to interest and to stimulate his class, but finds himself, instead, dictating facts to a hundred note-books. The student looks for guidance; what he too often receives is bare information. Admittedly the attitude of a class should be responsive, not passive; yet a lecturer must often ignore the necessity of preparing the mental soil before him, and cast the seed lavishly upon a barren, because undisturbed, surface. Hence the view has arisen that the lecturer exceeds his province in attempting mainly to impart subject-matter, and should occupy himself chiefly with direction and synopsis, with stimulating and sympathetic leadership, leaving the student to apply the incentive in reading, recitation, and laboratory practice. In emphasizing this view—that the lecture should be primarily a directive, not an informative, agency—I wish to show from the student's standpoint how present conditions indicate the necessity of a change both in the motive and in the plan of lecture instruction.
Many persons are accustomed to look indulgently upon the informative lecture—to regard it as a pleasant and effective means of obtaining knowledge. They themselves prefer to learn by ear rather than by eye. An analysis of this attitude would, I feel confident, show in most cases that those who maintain it have overestimated the amount and value of knowledge gained from lectures as such, and have allowed the stimulus and suggestiveness of attractive lecturing to impart an unreal feeling of acquisition. Acquisition may indeed take place in the subsequent reading of books or, more likely, of
notes. In such cases the knowledge is due to the books and to the notes; the lecture, valuable for what it has actually imparted, namely incentive, is rendered of less value by having as its object something which it can seldom effectually impart, namely information. Thus any lecture, no matter how delightful, which aims primarily to inform, is by virtue of its very purpose hampered in the function to which it owes its value.
It is often asked, “How can one man deal with a class of several hundred students except by means of the lecture?”
' On the other hand,” comes the reply, “how it is possible to reach effectively by lecture any class of such overwhelming size?"
The dilemma certainly is perplexing. One thing, however, is certain; it would be as well for instructors to furnish a textbook and to require mere examination on its contents, as to continue with the present wholesale method. It is little profit to a student, sitting in the extreme rear of an auditorium, to note down the detached and elusive shreds which may reach him from the lecture platform. It is little profit to a lecturer, while straining to be heard as the student is straining to hear. to attempt to influence numbers hopelessly beyond his personal grasp. If the necessity for demonstration be involved, the trouble is indefinitely aggravated. The distant, half-seen experiment; the distant, unseen operation; the patient examined in the distance by proxy; the perfunctory inspection and handing on of belated specimens and preparations which serve only to irritate the absorbed note-taker: under these burdens the instruction of large classes by lecture reaches its acme of inefficiency. To be sure, to state a dilemma is no argument. But does not the lecture system, by its very inclusiveness, encourage radically wrong, and with other methods impossible conditions? With other methods a line must needs be drawn as classes increase in size; with the lecture the only limitation is floor space. Our colleges and professional schools are learning that bulk beyond a certain limit means weakness. Their duty is first to retain classes in some way within educative bounds—then to apply methods which educate.
A great deal of lecturing not only fails to elicit response, but
invites conditions which are a menace to intellectual health and ideals. Given the average lecture course, it is safe to say that a few directions, faithfully carried out, will“ pass with credit any student of moderate intelligence. The recipe is well known to a certain class of tutors, and it is the possibility of thus turning the passing of examinations into an art, which makes the lecture course the favorite among students who wish to attain maximum grades at a minimum expenditure of labor. The reason for this preference is that a well-established method of cramming may be applied successfully to the matter of most lecture courses, and that “marks,” far from being the result of "continued faithful study, may depend solely upon the extent to which a student is willing to work at high pressure for a few days preceding the examination.
The evil of this sort of cramming needs no exposition. It may not be realized, however, that a similar evil extends to every student to whom lecture notes are the chief means of preparation for examinations. The use which is made of notes after they are once obtained is of exceeding importance to the student. The tyro at note-taking has first to encounter the discouraging fact that notes in college are not, as in the outside world, a word here or a sentence there, entered in a little book for the purpose of jogging the memory, but summaries of solid blocks of lecture matter. He has next the task of learning the use of this formidable mass. If he be wise he will work hard during the lectures, produce day by day a well-arranged textbook, and study it faithfully as the course progresses. It may be a dispiriting task, but it will make the final cram, which in any case is hardly to be avoided, much less of a burden. But some lecturers present especial difficulties to the note-taker. To follow the words of any speaker at all comprehensively in full script is an art, while the recording of some kinds of lecture discourse results in a scrawl legible only to the note-taker himself. Close and important detail is given with voluble ease, and the slaves of the note-book toil like slaves of the galley. It is, truly, largely a physical exercise; and evidence thereof lies in the aching hand and arm. It is not an intellectual exercise; for the student has become a note-taking machine,