Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

ways against the first, but are frequently forgetful of the second, the bankruptcy of the mind in its own domain. The rarest thing among men is a wide, proportionate, ever justifiable and enjoyable mode of thought. Even science does not escape the censure of headlong conclusions in its own field, and still less does it escape it when it approaches philosophy, religion, and human life. The doctrine of evolution, profoundly as it is fitted to modify thought, has, by a perverse precipitancy, taken on an extreme form quite in face of the facts with which it is dealing. Even Darwin was aware of a limitation of spiritual insight, resulting from an intense and protracted watchfulness of physical dependences.

Political economy, a quasi science, has formed and held fast its conclusions, only partially regardful of the fact that society is subject to progressive changes which may much modify the forces involved in its theories. In our commercial and in our social temper we have attached a very extreme value to accumulations of wealth as an expression of prosperity, with little inquiry as to how this wealth has been distributed, and what preparation it gives for the next stage of development. Our prosperity is constantly on the verge of financial and social collapse, and yet we are so dazzled by the sheen of commerce as hardly to observe its danger. Many of our sins are nothing more than abortions due to limited systems of thought. We accept the present at its present worth, and then proceed to match our future to it. We judge men, classes, races, by the part they are playing in our daily life, and then attempt to crowd them permanently into bounds much too narrow for them.

Spiritual health, the power to feel and appropriate all spiritual incentives, and thrive on their nutriment, is the supreme personal and social possession. The absence of it is sure to issue in one or another disease of mind, through which weariness and failure overtake us. In our time, when specialization is so extreme, when our activities and estimates of welfare are running in such narrow channels, any method is illdevised which weakens in some new way those general impressions and universal impulses by which our lives are made full and harmonious. When our first demand is everywhere and always for sober and sufficient thought, we are in error in breaking up the one assemblage of human interests which finds expression in a large library, and parceling it out between separate heirs. This is dividing up an estate which owed its chief influence to the union of its parts. Our individualism is extreme. What we now need both to sustain and to control it is a sense of union in the output of our lives, a sense of their constant return upon themselves. What a man is, he is by and toward his fellow men, and this fellowship is the medium of his existence. Participation in knowledge is the condition of its enlargement, and as we cease to partake in wisdom we shall cease to bestow it.

John BASCOM WILLIAMS COLLEGE

V

THE INTERPRETATION OF THE COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMINATION BOARD'S NEW DEFINITION OF THE REQUIREMENT IN PHYSICS

On April 17 last, the College Entrance Examination Board adopted a new definition of its requirement in physics. In order that physics teachers may have the opportunity of altering their methods of teaching at once, the Board voted that this requirement should become effective for the examination in June, 1910. The new definition has been printed in full in the EDUCATIONAL REVIEW for May, 1909, and in School science and mathematics for June. Copies of it may be obtained from the Secretary of the College Entrance Examination Board, Columbia University, New York.

The new requirement opens a new epoch in physics teaching. Those who believe in encouraging the study of physics in secondary schools should be grateful to the College Board for thus taking the lead in the work of making this study intelligible and of both practical and educational value to all the pupils in the high schools, whether they are going to college or not. This has not been possible so long as schools were obliged to prepare some of their students under the old requirement.

The College Entrance Examination Board is also deserving of hearty commendation for the method which it employed in securing the new definition. In the past definitions of this sort have been framed by committees composed largely of college men. But the Board apparently now recognizes that the secondary school teachers—the men who are actually doing the work and who therefore understand the needs and the possibilities of the high school pupils,—are better qualified to determine what constitutes a rational requirement: for this physics requirement was not adopted until it had been carefully revised and corrected by a committee composed entirely of “successful and experienced teachers of physics who are at present actively engaged in teaching physics in public secondary schools.”

The success of the new definition is thus due not only to the effective work done by this committee of secondary school men, but also in large measure to the College Entrance Examination Board's wise and progressive new policy, which made possible the appointment of such a committee and the reference of the whole subject to it. In the acceptance without question of the report of this committee, the College Entrance Examination Board has set a precedent which, if followed consistently in all subjects, would soon solve the college entrance problem in a way that would be eminently satisfactory to all concerned. The colleges would get students better able to do college work, and the high schools would be able more effectively to serve the communities which support them.

Passing to a consideration of the new definition, let us note some of the more important innovations.

1. The first paragraph of the introduction places a minimum time-limit on the work that must be done before taking the examination. Each candidate must bring his teacher's certificate that his course in physics has included at least 120 hours of school work. The value of this restriction is evident. The concepts of physics can not be grasped over night; they must have time to grow and to become clear by repeated and varied use. This requirement insures time for such growth, and prevents the attempt to “ learn" physics in two weeks solely for examination purposes.

When taken in connection with the shortness of the syllabus of required topics, this restriction opens to the teacher a large field of investigation and experiment in effective teaching. One of the most serious difficulties in the teaching of science is that of securing an adequate amount of repetition. This difficulty is not great in language work; for example, a rule of grammar may be repeated daily if desired, each time in relation to some new context. But no one has as yet devised a course in physics in which such repetition is found. Because of the attempt on the part of the text-books and the teachers to keep pace with the marvelous growth of physics, which has resulted in a large increase in its subject-matter, the problem of securing suitable repetition has been growing more difficult each year. The result has been that current texts resemble encyclopedias, and current courses have become so overloaded with subject-matter, that the best the teacher could do was to try to “get over ” as much of this material as was possible in the time allotted to him by the school. With a comparatively short list of required topics, and a time requirement, the teacher will be able to study carefully the problem of securing adequate repetition of concepts, so as to be sure of developing those concepts more clearly in the pupils' minds.

2. A second important point in the new definition is the prominence which it gives to the practical side of physics. The syllabus contains relatively few of the practical applications; and rightly so, because these applications are different in different communities. The teacher is, however, urged “to add liberally to them ”; and it is certain that most teachers will follow this advice, since history shows that science has originated in a study of the means of perfecting useful devices, and the most successful teachers have found by experience that science can be made much more real and vital to young pupils if practical applications are used at the very beginning to introduce each topic.

On this point educators are fairly well agreed at present. Each individual's clear concepts are formed from his own personal experiences with phenomena, and each individual thinks clearly and definitely in terms of concepts which have been formed in this way. In other words, the materials of instruction must be concrete, and such materials are “concrete only when they deal with real things and with actual, significant situations." 1 Facts, isolated from their original association, and having now no specific function, are abstract. Hence, if the concepts of physical science are to become clear to a pupil, they must be developed from experiences which deal with real things and significant situations and which are not

*McMurry, Teachers College record, Vol. VI, No. 2, page 6.

« AnteriorContinuar »