Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

doubting and testing, England, completely committed by tradition to the separate school, is making a number of enthusiastic experiments with coeducation. How numerous these are and how strong is the favorable conviction of those concerned in them can be learned by reference to Miss Alice Wood's little book, Coeducation (published by Longmans), and also, tho less definitely, to certain papers in the recently published Report of the International Inquiry on Moral Education. 11

Section 3. Comments Taking a general view of the situation as to coeducation we are imprest with the following points:

First, we can not but see that coeducation in school is no isolated fact, but is part and parcel of our American social system, which in all its phases permits great freedom of association between the youth of the two sexes. When this fact is once fully realized coeducation loses part of its force, part of its credit in the eyes of its advocates, and part of its dangers, or at least part of its responsibility, in the eyes of its opponents. Moreover, the loss of coeducation in schools wears a less serious aspect when one perceives that coeducation would still continue to act in home and church, on the street, and in general social life. At the same time this fundamental character of the coeducational plan must be a serious consideration to those who would abolish it from the school, inasmuch as there is reason to think that the general social system would vigorously oppose a move so contrary to its genius and method. Just as the introduction of coeducation is slow and laborious in Germany and England, and meets opposition and hostility at every step, so would the segregation of the sexes in the United States. This has already been shown in the attitude of great numbers of people toward the “ limited segregation" of the University of Chicago and of some of the large high schools.

Secondly, it is vitally important to distinguish between 11 See especially Vol. I, Chapters XVIII, XIX, XX. See also Report of Moseley Educational Commission, p. 13, 113, 143, 165 f., 267, 301, 319, 354.

the separate problems often confused under the term coeducation; this has already been discust in Section 1. Argument quite sufficient to establish the need of different curriculums for boys and girls might fall far short of proving that the boys and girls should attend separate schools. And conceivably valid reasons might be given for separate and different instruction for the two sexes, even tho both pursue the same branches, at least in name; for example, both might study physics, but in separate classes and with a different choice of matter and method of teaching. Underlying all these questions, and safe from any attack, in theory at least, is the doctrine of equal opportunity for the two sexes; no debate or experiment on other questions should be suspected of sinister designs on this great accepted and admirable principle of American education and American social life.

So far as the mingling of the sexes in classes and in schools is concerned, the most subtle, obscure, and difficult question is of course that of the mutual influence of the sexes upon the wholesomeness and efficiency in the present school life and upon soundness of development for the future. Two serious charges are made against the coeducational plan, that the pupils of both sexes are distracted from their school work, and that actual sexual immorality occasionally results. Upon both these points reliable data of observed fact are meager in the extreme, if not quite wanting, and opinion among experts is hopelessly conflicting. The present writer has not yet learned of a single case of sexual immorality that could be charged definitely to the school. One thing needs great emphasis just here, and that is the constant danger of what might be called the physiological fallacy regarding the sex impulse and nature: sex is, in fact, far more psychic than physiological in all normal civilized human beings, and especially in early adolescence. The comparatively pure and wholesome sex feelings of the typical “first love ” remove their object far above all touch of bodily grossness. It is a superficial and illusory view that attempts to decide the sex problem in coeducation without profound regard for this great element in human sex life. It is quite in accord with Nature's ways that she should sell us the rich possibilities of this influence at the price of serious perils from the coarser strains in sexual nature. It would not be surprizing if “Nothing venture, nothing have ” applied also to this problem.

The great need in the coeducation debate, as in so many educational problems, is experiment, or at least experience, and the study of the results. Let those of us who favor coeducation lay aside all bigotry and assumption of infallible right for our side of the question, and welcome conservative and guarded experiments, such as those already referred to in this paper. Such experiments are needed in far greater number than now exist, and should be subjected to the most careful scrutiny. They must be continued long enough to outwear the effects of novelty and curiosity; interpretation must guard most vigilantly against that sin which universally besets the advance of knowledge, the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Of course, demonstration can not be expected, but every thoro experiment will, in its own form and development, be a living witness and working exemplification in itself of what can be done or can not be done under certain conditions. Such conclusions may be applied with much confidence where the conditions are closely similar. But hasty generalizations must be shunned like poison.

Finally, not because it comes logically last, but because it is vital to many problems in school life, we must raise the question whether many of the difficulties and perils that perplex our high school teachers and administrators rise not so much from coeducation as from the general laisser faire policy which rules the moral and spiritual realm of education today. How completely the emphasis has changed from the moral to the intellectual in secondary school and college can be seen in a score of ways. The greatest lesson for our schools to learn today is that moral development will not take care of itself, but must be tended and cultivated quite as assiduously and wisely as the growth of knowledge and reason. A conservative believer in coeducation must still admit the perils that inhere in the plan, but most good things have their own peculiar dangers that may be avoided, either by renunciation or by vigilance and assiduity. No one should expect coeducation to “run itself”; we may hope to reap its fruits only as we obviate the dangers by the wisest and most unflagging guidance including both restraint and stimulus.

IV.

FREEDOM AND SPONTANEITY IN STUDENT LIFE

No feature is more characteristic of American education, both in school and out, than the freedom and encouragement that it gives to the impulses, desires, ambitions, and manners of children and youth. Not that America is alone in this respect, for all the leading people of the world are recognizing the child as never before; witness Ellen Key's extreme Century of the child,' and Paulsen's moderate but decided Väter und Söhne, among many voices announcing the changing times. But America is in this, as in so many respects, in the forefront,—with the result that she is peculiarly subject to the criticism of the conservative, a needed and wholesome criticism, doubtless, even tho it is not always quite fair. From kindergarten,—and nowhere has the kindergarten, the embodiment of child-freedom, been more fully adopted than in America, from kindergarten to high school, the American school is marked by freedom and ease of common life between teacher and pupil; the very fact is significant that the American says teacher while the European says master. Among us the victory of the “ New Education ” over the “Old ” is most sweeping; compare, for example, the oath of the Athenian ephebos graduating into citizenship, with the commencement “oration” of the modern high school youth: the one dictated by immemorial tradition and reverently accepted by the lad; the other expressing, in theory at least, the independent and spontaneous ideas and impulses of the youth.

In the high school this freedom and initiative are shown particularly in two general forms: the first including the numerous and conspicuous “ student activities,” such as athletics, school papers and annuals, societies and clubs; the second comprising all the various forms and degrees of the elective principle in courses and studies. In both of these respects the American high school stands alone among the secondary schools of the present and past; the only approach to it being the considerable amount of independence and authority allowed to the older boys in English "public" and other high grade boarding schools; this liberty, however, affects only general life and discipline, and does not extend to studies and class work, where the usual strict prescription and control are found.

'English translation published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1909. * Deutsche Rundschau (Berlin), May, 1907.

Concerning election in its various forms little need be said here for the reason that so much has already been said elsewhere, and both the situation and the problem are widely understood. The American high school pupil, in all but the smallest schools, has a considerable range of choice as to his course of studies: the choice sometimes is between various so-called “courses ” or groups of studies, each group covering the four years of the high school, with little or no variations within the group; sometimes it is a direct choice of separate studies or branches, so that the pupil chooses, not merely the general direction of his training, but the particular branches to be included. The first named form of election, the option of various kinds of curriculums, is found to some extent in European school systems, as illustrated by the three types of standard secondary schools in Germany and the various trade, technical, and commercial secondary schools growing up parallel to these. It is certain, however, that the pupil has far less voice or influence in the selection of a course than has the American boy; the decision is often based entirely upon social standing and practically always made by the parent, often with little or no regard for the tastes and aptitudes of the youth. The present writer knows of a German father of high social and professional rank who, in spite of his son's passion and talent for science, qualities of which the father was enthusiastically proud, nevertheless sent the lad to the classical gymnasium because, forsooth, that was socially the correct thing.

Of the more open election involved in choosing separate

« AnteriorContinuar »