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Title: Craftsmanship in Teaching
Author: Bagley, William Chandler, 1874-1946
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Author Of "The Educative Process," "Classroom Management," "Educational
Values," Etc.

New York
The MacMillan Company
All rights reserved
Copyright, 1911, by the MacMillan Company.
Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1911. Reprinted June, October,
1911; May, 1912.
Norwood Press
J.S. Cushing Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



The following papers are published chiefly because they treat in a
concrete and personal manner some of the principles which the writer has
developed in two previously published books, _The Educative Process_ and
_Classroom Management_, and in a forthcoming volume, _Educational
Values_. It is hoped that the more informal discussions presented in the
following pages will, in some slight measure, supplement the theoretical
and systematic treatment which necessarily characterizes the other
books. In this connection, it should be stated that the materials of the
first paper here presented were drawn upon in writing Chapter XVIII of
_Classroom Management_, and that the second paper simply states in a
different form the conclusions reached in Chapter I of _The Educative

The writer is indebted to his colleague, Professor L.F. Anderson, for
many criticisms and suggestions and to Miss Bernice Harrison for
invaluable aid in editing the papers for publication. But his heaviest
debt, here as elsewhere, is to his wife, to whose encouraging sympathy
and inspiration whatever may be valuable in this or in his other books
must be largely attributed.

  March 1, 1911


  CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

  I. CRAFTSMANSHIP IN TEACHING                                          1

  II. OPTIMISM IN TEACHING                                             23


  IV. THE TEST OF EFFICIENCY IN SUPERVISION                            63

  V. THE SUPERVISOR AND THE TEACHER                                    77

  VI. EDUCATION AND UTILITY                                            96

  VII. THE SCIENTIFIC SPIRIT IN EDUCATION                             123


  IX. A PLEA FOR THE DEFINITE IN EDUCATION                            164


  XI. THE NEW ATTITUDE TOWARD DRILL                                   204

  XII. THE IDEAL TEACHER                                              229





     "In the laboratory of life, each newcomer repeats the old
     experiments, and laughs and weeps for himself. We will be
     explorers, though all the highways have their guideposts and every
     bypath is mapped. Helen of Troy will not deter us, nor the wounds
     of Cæsar frighten, nor the voice of the king crying 'Vanity!' from
     his throne dismay. What wonder that the stars that once sang for
     joy are dumb and the constellations go down in
     silence."--ARTHUR SHERBURNE HARDY: _The Wind of Destiny_.

We tend, I think, to look upon the advice that we give to young people
as something that shall disillusionize them. The cynic of forty sneers
at what he terms the platitudes of commencement addresses. He knows
life. He has been behind the curtains. He has looked upon the other side
of the scenery,--the side that is just framework and bare canvas. He has
seen the ugly machinery that shifts the stage setting--the stage setting
which appears so impressive when viewed from the front. He has seen the
rouge on the cheeks that seem to blush with the bloom of youth and
beauty and innocence, and has caught the cold glint in the eyes that,
from the distance, seem to languish with tenderness and love. Why, he
asks, should we create an illusion that must thus be rudely dispelled?
Why revamp and refurbish the old platitudes and dole them out each
succeeding year? Why not tell these young people the truth and let them
be prepared for the fate that must come sooner or later?

But the cynic forgets that there are some people who never lose their
illusions,--some men and women who are always young,--and, whatever may
be the type of men and women that other callings and professions desire
to enroll in their service, this is the type that education needs. The
great problem of the teacher is to keep himself in this class, to keep
himself young, to preserve the very things that the cynic pleases to
call the illusions of his youth. And so much do I desire to impress
these novitiates into our calling with the necessity for preserving
their ideals that I shall ask them this evening to consider with me some
things which would, I fear, strike the cynic as most illusionary and
impractical. The initiation ceremonies that admitted the young man to
the privileges and duties of knighthood included the taking of certain
vows, the making of certain pledges of devotion and fidelity to the
fundamental principles for which chivalry stood. And I should like this
evening to imagine that these graduates are undergoing an analogous
initiation into the privileges and duties of schoolcraft, and that
these vows which I shall enumerate, embody some of the ideals that
govern the work of that craft.


And the first of these vows I shall call, for want of a better term, the
vow of "artistry,"--the pledge that the initiate takes to do the work
that his hand finds to do in the best possible manner, without reference
to the effort that it may cost or to the reward that it may or may not

I call this the vow of artistry because it represents the essential
attitude of the artist toward his work. The cynic tells us that ideals
are illusions of youth, and yet, the other day I saw expressed in a
middle-aged working-man a type of idealism that is not at all uncommon
in this world. He was a house painter; his task was simply the prosaic
job of painting a door; and yet, from the pains which he took with that
work, an observer would have concluded that it was, to the painter, the
most important task in the world. And that, after all, is the true test
of craft artistry: to the true craftsman the work that he is doing must
be the most important thing that can be done. One of the best teachers
that I know is that kind of a craftsman in education. A student was once
sent to observe his work. He was giving a lesson upon the "attribute
complement" to an eighth-grade grammar class. I asked the student
afterward what she had got from her visit. "Why," she replied, "that man
taught as if the very greatest achievement in life would be to get his
pupils to understand the attribute complement,--and when he had
finished, they did understand it."

In a narrower sense, this vow of artistry carries with it an
appreciation of the value of technique. From the very fact of their
normal school training, these graduates already possess a certain
measure of skill, a certain mastery of the technique of their craft.
This initial mastery has been gained in actual contact with the problems
of school work in their practice teaching. They have learned some of the
rudiments; they have met and mastered some of the rougher, cruder
difficulties. The finer skill, the delicate and intangible points of
technique, they must acquire, as all beginners must acquire them,
through the strenuous processes of self-discipline in the actual work of
the years that are to come. This is a process that takes time, energy,
constant and persistent application. All that this school or any school
can do for its students in this respect is to start them upon the right
track in the acquisition of skill. But do not make the mistake of
assuming that this is a small and unimportant matter. If this school did
nothing more than this, it would still repay tenfold the cost of its
establishment and maintenance. Three fourths of the failures in a world
that sometimes seems full of failures are due to nothing more nor less
than a wrong start. In spite of the growth of professional training for
teachers within the past fifty years, many of our lower schools are
still filled with raw recruits, fresh from the high schools and even
from the grades, who must learn every practical lesson of teaching
through the medium of their own mistakes. Even if this were all, the
process would involve a tremendous and uncalled-for waste. But this is
not all; for, out of this multitude of untrained teachers, only a small
proportion ever recognize the mistakes that they make and try to correct

To you who are beginning the work of life, the mastery of technique may
seem a comparatively unimportant matter. You recognize its necessity, of
course, but you think of it as something of a mechanical nature,--an
integral part of the day's work, but uninviting in itself,--something to
be reduced as rapidly as possible to the plane of automatism and
dismissed from the mind. I believe that you will outgrow this notion. As
you go on with your work, as you increase in skill, ever and ever the
fascination of its technique will take a stronger and stronger hold upon
you. This is the great saving principle of our workaday life. This is
the factor that keeps the toiler free from the deadening effects of
mechanical routine. It is the factor that keeps the farmer at his plow,
the artisan at his bench, the lawyer at his desk, the artist at his

I once worked for a man who had accumulated a large fortune. At the age
of seventy-five he divided this fortune among his children, intending to
retire; but he could find pleasure and comfort only in the routine of
business. In six months he was back in his office. He borrowed
twenty-five thousand dollars on his past reputation and started in to
have some fun. I was his only employee at the time, and I sat across the
big double desk from him, writing his letters and keeping his accounts.
He would sit for hours, planning for the establishment of some industry
or running out the lines that would entangle some old adversary. I did
not stay with him very long, but before I left, he had a half-dozen
thriving industries on his hands, and when he died three years later he
had accumulated another fortune of over a million dollars.

That is an example of what I mean by the fascination that the technique
of one's craft may come to possess. It is the joy of doing well the work
that you know how to do. The finer points of technique,--those little
things that seem so trivial in themselves and yet which mean everything
to skill and efficiency,--what pride the competent artisan or the master
artist takes in these! How he delights to revel in the jargon of his
craft! How he prides himself in possessing the knowledge and the
technical skill that are denied the layman!

I am aware that I am somewhat unorthodox in urging this view of your
work upon you. Teachers have been encouraged to believe that details are
not only unimportant but stultifying,--that teaching ability is a
function of personality, and not a product of a technique that must be
acquired through the strenuous discipline of experience. One of the most
skillful teachers of my acquaintance is a woman down in the grades. I
have watched her work for days at a time, striving to learn its secret.
I can find nothing there that is due to genius,--unless we accept George
Eliot's definition of genius as an infinite capacity for receiving
discipline. That teacher's success, by her own statement, is due to a
mastery of technique, gained through successive years of growth checked
by a rigid responsibility for results. She has found out by repeated
trial how to do her work in the best way; she has discovered the
attitude toward her pupils that will get the best work from them,--the
clearest methods of presenting subject matter; the most effective ways
in which to drill; how to use text-books and make study periods issue in
something besides mischief; and, more than all else, how to do these
things without losing sight of the true end of education. Very
frequently I have taken visiting school men to see this teacher's work.
Invariably after leaving her room they have turned to me with such
expressions as these: "A born teacher!" "What interest!" "What a
personality!" "What a voice!"--everything, in fact, except this,--which
would have been the truth: "What a tribute to years of effort and
struggle and self-discipline!"

I have a theory which I have never exploited very seriously, but I will
give it to you for what it is worth. It is this: elementary education
especially needs a literary interpretation. It needs a literary artist
who will portray to the public in the form of fiction the real life of
the elementary school,--who will idealize the technique of teaching as
Kipling idealized the technique of the marine engineer, as Balzac
idealized the technique of the journalist, as Du Maurier and a hundred
other novelists have idealized the technique of the artist. We need some
one to exploit our shop-talk on the reading public, and to show up our
work as you and I know it, not as you and I have been told by laymen
that it ought to be,--a literature of the elementary school with the
cant and the platitudes and the goody-goodyism left out, and in their
place something of the virility, of the serious study, of the manful
effort to solve difficult problems, of the real and vital achievements
that are characteristic of thousands of elementary schools throughout
the country to-day.

At first you will be fascinated by the novelty of your work. But that
soon passes away. Then comes the struggle,--then comes the period, be it
long or short, when you will work with your eyes upon the clock, when
you will count the weeks, the days, the hours, the minutes that lie
between you and vacation time. Then will be the need for all the
strength and all the energy that you can summon to your aid. Fail here,
and your fate is decided once and for all. If, in your work, you never
get beyond this stage, you will never become the true craftsman. You
will never taste the joy that is vouchsafed the expert, the efficient

The length of this period varies with different individuals. Some
teachers "find themselves" quickly. They seem to settle at once into the
teaching attitude. With others is a long, uphill fight. But it is safe
to say that if, at the end of three years, your eyes still habitually
seek the clock,--if, at the end of that time, your chief reward is the
check that comes at the end of every fourth week,--then your doom is


And the second vow that I should urge these graduates to take is the vow
of fidelity to the spirit of their calling. We have heard a great deal
in recent years about making education a profession. I do not like that
term myself. Education is not a profession in the sense that medicine
and law are professions. It is rather a craft, for its duty is to
produce, to mold, to fashion, to transform a certain raw material into a
useful product. And, like all crafts, education must possess the craft
spirit. It must have a certain code of craft ethics; it must have
certain standards of craft excellence and efficiency. And in these the
normal school must instruct its students, and to these it should secure
their pledge of loyalty and fidelity and devotion.

A true conception of this craft spirit in education is one of the most
priceless possessions of the young teacher, for it will fortify him
against every criticism to which his calling is subjected. It is
revealing no secret to tell you that the teacher's work is not held in
the highest regard by the vast majority of men and women in other walks
of life. I shall not stop to inquire why this is so, but the fact cannot
be doubted, and every now and again some incident of life, trifling
perhaps in itself, will bring it to your notice; but most of all,
perhaps you will be vexed and incensed by the very thing that is meant
to put you at your ease--the patronizing attitude which your friends in
other walks of life will assume toward you and toward your work.

When will the good public cease to insult the teacher's calling with
empty flattery? When will men who would never for a moment encourage
their own sons to enter the work of the public schools, cease to tell us
that education is the greatest and noblest of all human callings?
Education does not need these compliments. The teacher does not need
them. If he is a master of his craft, he knows what education means,--he
knows this far better than any layman can tell him. And what boots it to
him, if, with all this cant and hypocrisy about the dignity and worth of
his calling, he can sometimes hold his position only at the sacrifice of
his self-respect?

But what is the relation of the craft spirit to these facts? Simply
this: the true craftsman, by the very fact that he is a true craftsman,
is immune to these influences. What does the true artist care for the
plaudits or the sneers of the crowd? True, he seeks commendation and
welcomes applause, for your real artist is usually extremely human; but
he seeks this commendation from another source--from a source that metes
it out less lavishly and yet with unconditioned candor. He seeks the
commendation of his fellow-workmen, the applause of "those who know, and
always will know, and always will understand." He plays to the pit and
not to the gallery, for he knows that when the pit really approves the
gallery will often echo and reëcho the applause, albeit it has not the
slightest conception of what the whole thing is about.

What education stands in need of to-day is just this: a stimulating and
pervasive craft spirit. If a human calling would win the world's
respect, it must first respect itself; and the more thoroughly it
respects itself, the greater will be the measure of homage that the
world accords it. In one of the educational journals a few years ago,
the editors ran a series of articles under the general caption, "Why I
am a teacher." It reminded me of the spirited discussion that one of the
Sunday papers started some years since on the world-old query, "Is
marriage a failure?" And some of the articles were fully as sickening in
their harrowing details as were some of the whining matrimonial
confessions of the latter series. But the point that I wish to make is
this: your true craftsman in education never stops to ask himself such
questions. There are some men to whom schoolcraft is a mistress. They
love it, and their devotion is no make-believe, fashioned out of
sentiment, and donned for the purpose of hiding inefficiency or native
indolence. They love it as some men love Art, and others Business, and
others War. They do not stop to ask the reason why, to count the cost,
or to care a fig what people think. They are properly jealous of their
special knowledge, gained through years of special study; they are
justly jealous of their special skill gained through years of discipline
and training. They resent the interference of laymen in matters purely
professional. They resent such interference as would a reputable
physician, a reputable lawyer, a reputable engineer. They resent
officious patronage and "fussy" meddling. They resent all these things
manfully, vigorously. But your true craftsman will not whine. If the
conditions under which he works do not suit him, he will fight for their
betterment, but he will not whine.


And yet this vow of fidelity and devotion to the spirit of schoolcraft
would be an empty form without the two complementary vows that give it
worth and meaning. These are the vow of poverty and the vow of service.
It is through these that the true craft spirit must find its most
vigorous expression and its only justification. The very corner stone of
schoolcraft is service, and one fundamental lesson that the tyro in
schoolcraft must learn, especially in this materialistic age, is that
the value of service is not to be measured in dollars and cents. In this
respect, teaching resembles art, music, literature, discovery,
invention, and pure science; for, if all the workers in all of these
branches of human activity got together and demanded of the world the
real fruits of their self-sacrifice and labor,--if they demanded all the
riches and comforts and amenities of life that have flowed directly or
indirectly from their efforts,--there would be little left for the rest
of mankind. Each of these activities is represented by a craft spirit
that recognizes this great truth. The artist or the scientist who has an
itching palm, who prostitutes his craft for the sake of worldly gain, is
quickly relegated to the oblivion that he deserves. He loses caste, and
the caste of craft is more precious to your true craftsman than all the
gold of the modern Midas.

You may think that this is all very well to talk about, but that it
bears little agreement to the real conditions. Let me tell you that you
are mistaken. Go ask Röntgen why he did not keep the X-rays a secret to
be exploited for his own personal gain. Ask the shade of the great
Helmholtz why he did not patent the ophthalmoscope. Go to the University
of Wisconsin and ask Professor Babcock why he gave to the world without
money and without price the Babcock test--an invention which is
estimated to mean more than one million dollars every year to the
farmers and dairymen of that state alone. Ask the men on the geological
survey who laid bare the great gold deposits of Alaska why they did not
leave a thankless and ill-paid service to acquire the wealth that lay at
their feet. Because commercialized ideals govern the world that we know,
we think that all men's eyes are jaundiced, and that all men's vision is
circumscribed by the milled rim of the almighty dollar. But we are
sadly, miserably mistaken.

Do you think that these ideals of service from which every taint of
self-seeking and commercialism have been eliminated--do you think that
these are mere figments of the impractical imagination? Go ask Perry
Holden out in Iowa. Go ask Luther Burbank out in California. Go to any
agricultural college in this broad land and ask the scientists who are
doing more than all other forces combined to increase the wealth of the
people. Go to the scientific departments at Washington where men of
genius are toiling for a pittance. Ask them how much of the wealth for
which they are responsible they propose to put into their own pockets.
What will be their answer? They will tell you that all they ask is a
living wage, a chance to work, and the just recognition of their
services by those who know and appreciate and understand.

But let me hasten to add that these men claim no especial merit for
their altruism and unselfishness. They do not pose before the world as
philanthropists. They do not strut about and preen themselves as who
would say: "See what a noble man am I! See how I sacrifice myself for
the welfare of society!" The attitude of cant and pose is entirely alien
to the spirit of true service. Their delight is in doing, in serving, in
producing. But beyond this, they have the faults and frailties of their
kind,--save one,--the sin of covetousness. And again, all that they ask
of the world is a living wage, and the privilege to serve.

And that is all that the true craftsman in education asks. The man or
woman with the itching palm has no place in the schoolroom,--no place in
any craft whose keynote is service. It is true that the teacher does not
receive to-day, in all parts of our country, a living wage; and it is
equally true that society at large is the greatest sufferer because of
its penurious policy in this regard. I should applaud and support every
movement that has for its purpose the raising of teachers' salaries to
the level of those paid in other branches of professional service.
Society should do this for its own benefit and in its own defense, not
as a matter of charity to the men and women who, among all public
servants, should be the last to be accused of feeding gratuitously at
the public crib. I should approve all honest efforts of school men and
school women toward this much-desired end. But whenever men and women
enter schoolcraft because of the material rewards that it offers, the
virtue will have gone out of our calling,--just as the virtue went out
of the Church when, during the Middle Ages, the Church attracted men,
not because of the opportunities that it offered for social service, but
because of the opportunities that it offered for the acquisition of
wealth and temporal power,--just as the virtue has gone out of certain
other once-noble professions that have commercialized their standards
and tarnished their ideals.

This is not to say that one condemns the man who devotes his life to the
accumulation of property. The tremendous strides that our country has
made in material civilization have been conditioned in part by this type
of genius. Creative genius must always compel our admiration and our
respect. It may create a world epic, a matchless symphony of tones or
pigments, a scientific theory of tremendous grasp and limitless scope;
or it may create a vast industrial system, a commercial enterprise of
gigantic proportions, a powerful organization of capital. Genius is
pretty much the same wherever we find it, and everywhere we of the
common clay must recognize its worth.

The grave defect in our American life is not that we are hero
worshipers, but rather that we worship but one type of hero; we
recognize but one type of achievement; we see but one sort of genius.
For two generations our youth have been led to believe that there is
only one ambition that is worth while,--the ambition of property.
Success at any price is the ideal that has been held up before our boys
and girls. And to-day we are reaping the rewards of this distorted and
unjust view of life.

I recently met a man who had lived for some years in the neighborhood of
St. Paul and Minneapolis,--a section that is peopled, as you know, very
largely by Scandinavian immigrants and their descendants. This man told
me that he had been particularly impressed by the high idealism of the
Norwegian people. His business brought him in contact with Norwegian
immigrants in what are called the lower walks of life,--with workingmen
and servant girls,--and he made it a point to ask each of these young
men and young women the same question. "Tell me," he would say, "who are
the great men of your country? Who are the men toward whom the youth of
your land are led to look for inspiration? Who are the men whom your
boys are led to imitate and emulate and admire?" And he said that he
almost always received the same answer to this question: the great names
of the Norwegian nation that had been burned upon the minds even of
these workingmen and servant girls were just four in number: Ole Bull,
Björnson, Ibsen, Nansen. Over and over again he asked that same
question; over and over again he received the same answer: Ole Bull,
Björnson, Ibsen, Nansen. A great musician, a great novelist, a great
dramatist, a great scientist.

And I conjectured as I heard of this incident, What would be the answer
if the youth of our land were asked that question: "Who are the great
men of _your_ country? What type of achievement have you been led to
imitate and emulate and admire?" How many of our boys and girls have
even heard of our great men in the world of culture,--unless, indeed,
such men lived a half century ago and have got into the school readers
by this time? How many of our boys and girls have ever heard of
MacDowell, or James, or Whistler, or Sargent?

I have said that the teacher must take the vow of service. What does
this imply except that the opportunity for service, the privilege of
serving, should be the opportunity that one seeks, and that the
achievements toward which one aspires should be the achievements of
serving? The keynote of service lies in self-sacrifice,--in
self-forgetfulness, rather,--in merging one's own life in the lives of
others. The attitude of the true teacher in this respect is very similar
to the attitude of the true parent. In so far as the parent feels
himself responsible for the character of his children, in so far as he
holds himself culpable for their shortcomings and instrumental in
shaping their virtues, he loses himself in his children. What we term
parental affection is, I believe, in part an outgrowth of this feeling
of responsibility. The situation is precisely the same with the
teacher. It is when the teacher begins to feel himself responsible for
the growth and development of his pupils that he begins to find himself
in the work of teaching. It is then that the effective devotion to his
pupils has its birth. The affection that comes prior to this is, I
think, very likely to be of the sentimental and transitory sort.

In education, as in life, we play altogether too carelessly with the
word "love." The test of true devotion is self-forgetfulness. Until the
teacher reaches that point, he is conscious of two distinct elements in
his work,--himself and his pupils. When that time comes, his own _ego_
drops from view, and he lives in and for his pupils. The young teacher's
tendency is always to ask himself, "Do my pupils like me?" Let me say
that this is beside the question. It is not, from his standpoint, a
matter of the pupils liking their teacher, but of the teacher liking his
pupils. That, I take it, must be constantly the point of view. If you
ask the other question first, you will be tempted to gain your end by
means that are almost certain to prove fatal,--to bribe and pet and
cajole and flatter, to resort to the dangerous expedient of playing to
the gallery; but the liking that you get in this way is not worth the
price that you pay for it. I should caution young teachers against the
short-sighted educational theories that are in the air to-day, and that
definitely recommend this attitude. They may sound sweet, but they are
soft and sticky in practice. Better be guided by instinct than by
"half-baked" theory. I have no disposition to criticize the attempts
that have been made to rationalize educational practice, but a great
deal of contemporary theory starts at the wrong end. It has failed to go
to the sources of actual experience for its data. I know a father and
mother who have brought up ten children successfully, and I may say that
you could learn more about managing boys and girls from observing their
methods than from a half-dozen prominent books on educational theory
that I could name.

And so I repeat that the true test of the teacher's fidelity to this vow
of service is the degree in which he loses himself in his pupils,--the
degree in which he lives and toils and sacrifices for them just for the
pure joy that it brings him. Once you have tasted this joy, no carping
sneer of the cynic can cause you to lose faith in your calling. Material
rewards sink into insignificance. You no longer work with your eyes upon
the clock. The hours are all too short for the work that you would do.
You are as light-hearted and as happy as a child,--for you have lost
yourself to find yourself, and you have found yourself to lose yourself.


And the final vow that I would have these graduates take is the vow of
idealism,--the pledge of fidelity and devotion to certain fundamental
principles of life which it is the business of education carefully to
cherish and nourish and transmit untarnished to each succeeding
generation. These but formulate in another way what the vows that I have
already discussed mean by implication. One is the ideal of social
service, upon which education must, in the last analysis, rest its case.
The second is the ideal of science,--the pledge of devotion to that
persistent unwearying search after truth, of loyalty to the great
principles of unbiased observation and unprejudiced experiment, of
willingness to accept the truth and be governed by it, no matter how
disagreeable it may be, no matter how roughly it may trample down our
pet doctrines and our preconceived theories. The nineteenth century left
us a glorious heritage in the great discoveries and inventions that
science has established. These must not be lost to posterity; but far
better lose them than lose the spirit of free inquiry, the spirit of
untrammeled investigation, the noble devotion to truth for its own sake
that made these discoveries and inventions possible.

It is these ideals that education must perpetuate, and if education is
successfully to perpetuate them, the teacher must himself be filled with
a spirit of devotion to the things that they represent. Science has
triumphed over superstition and fraud and error. It is the teacher's
duty to see to it that this triumph is permanent, that mankind does not
again fall back into the black pit of ignorance and superstition.

And so it is the teacher's province to hold aloft the torch, to stand
against the materialistic tendencies that would reduce all human
standards to the common denominator of the dollar, to insist at all
times and at all places that this nation of ours was founded upon
idealism, and that, whatever may be the prevailing tendencies of the
time, its children shall still learn to live "among the sunlit peaks."
And if the teacher is imbued with this idealism, although his work may
take him very close to Mother Earth, he may still lift his head above
the fog and look the morning sun squarely in the face.


[Footnote 1: An address to the graduating class of the Oswego, New York,
State Normal School, February, 1907.]



Although the month is March and not November, it is never unseasonable
to count up the blessings for which it is well to be thankful. In fact,
from the standpoint of education, the spring is perhaps the appropriate
time to perform this very pleasant function. As if still further to
emphasize the fact that education, like civilization, is an artificial
thing, we have reversed the operations of Mother Nature: we sow our seed
in the fall and cultivate our crops during the winter and reap our
harvests in the spring. I may be pardoned, therefore, for making the
theme of my discussion a brief review of the elements of growth and
victory for which the educator of to-day may justly be grateful, with,
perhaps, a few suggestions of what the next few years may reasonably be
expected to bring forth.

And this course is all the more necessary because, I believe, the
teaching profession is unduly prone to pessimism. One might think at
first glance that the contrary would be true. We are surrounded on every
side by youth. Youth is the material with which we constantly deal.
Youth is buoyant, hopeful, exuberant; and yet, with this material
constantly surrounding us, we frequently find the task wearisome and
apparently hopeless. The reason is not far to seek. Youth is not only
buoyant, it is unsophisticated, it is inexperienced, in many important
particulars it is crude. Some of its tastes must necessarily, in our
judgment, hark back to the primitive, to the barbaric. Ours is
continually the task to civilize, to sophisticate, to refine this raw
material. But, unfortunately for us, the effort that we put forth does
not always bring results that we can see and weigh and measure. The
hopefulness of our material is overshadowed not infrequently by its
crudeness. We take each generation as it comes to us. We strive to lift
it to the plane that civilized society has reached. We do our best and
pass it on, mindful of the many inadequacies, perhaps of the many
failures, in our work. We turn to the new generation that takes its
place. We hope for better materials, but we find no improvement.

And so you and I reflect in our occasional moments of pessimism that
generic situation which inheres in the very work that we do. The
constantly accelerated progress of civilization lays constantly
increasing burdens upon us. In some way or another we must accomplish
the task. In some way or another we must lift the child to the level of
society, and, as society is reaching a continually higher and higher
level, so the distance through which the child must be raised is ever
increased. We would like to think that all this progress in the race
would come to mean that we should be able to take the child at a higher
level; but you who deal with children know from experience the principle
for which the biologist Weismann stands sponsor--the principle, namely,
that acquired characteristics are not inherited; that whatever changes
may be wrought during life in the brains and nerves and muscles of the
present generation cannot be passed on to its successor save through the
same laborious process of acquisition and training; that, however far
the civilization of the race may progress, education, whose duty it is
to conserve and transmit this civilization, must always begin with the
"same old child."

This, I take it, is the deep-lying cause of the schoolmaster's
pessimism. In our work we are constantly struggling against that same
inertia which held the race in bondage for how many millenniums only the
evolutionist can approximate a guess,--that inertia of the primitive,
untutored mind which we to-day know as the mind of childhood, but which,
for thousands of generations, was the only kind of a mind that man
possessed. This inertia has been conquered at various times in the
course of recorded history,--in Egypt and China and India, in Chaldea
and Assyria, in Greece and Rome,--conquered only again to reassert
itself and drive man back into barbarism. Now we of the Western world
have conquered it, let us hope, for all time; for we of the Western
world have discovered an effective method of holding it in abeyance, and
this method is universal public education.

Let Germany close her public schools, and in two generations she will
lapse back into the semi-darkness of medievalism; let her close both her
public schools and her universities, and three generations will fetch
her face to face with the Dark Ages; let her destroy her libraries and
break into ruin all of her works of art, all of her existing triumphs of
technical knowledge and skill, from which a few, self-tutored, might
glean the wisdom that is every one's to-day, and Germany will soon
become the home of a savage race, as it was in the days of Tacitus and
Cæsar. Let Italy close her public schools, and Italy will become the
same discordant jumble of petty states that it was a century ago,--again
to await, this time perhaps for centuries or millenniums, another
Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel to work her regeneration. Let Japan close
her public schools, and Japan in two generations will be a barbaric
kingdom of the Shoguns, shorn of every vestige of power and
prestige,--the easy victim of the machinations of Western diplomats. Let
our country cease in its work of education, and these United States must
needs pass through the reverse stages of their growth until another race
of savages shall roam through the unbroken forest, now and then to reach
the shores of ocean and gaze through the centuries, eastward, to catch
a glimpse of the new Columbus. Like the moving pictures of the
kinetoscope when the reels are reversed, is the picture that imagination
can unroll if we grant the possibility of a lapse from civilization to

And so when we take the broader view, we quickly see that, in spite of
our pessimism, we are doing something in the world. We are part of that
machine which civilization has invented and is slowly perfecting to
preserve itself. We may be a very small part, but, so long as the
responsibility for a single child rests upon us, we are not an
unimportant part. Society must reckon with you and me perhaps in an
infinitesimal degree, but it must reckon with the institution which we
represent as it reckons with no other institution that it has reared to
subserve its needs.

In a certain sense these statements are platitudes. We have repeated
them over and over again until the words have lost their tremendous
significance. And it behooves us now and again to revive the old
substance in a new form,--to come afresh to a self-consciousness of our
function. It is not good for any man to hold a debased and inferior
opinion of himself or of his work, and in the field of schoolcraft it is
easy to fall into this self-depreciating habit of thought. We cannot
hope that the general public will ever come to view our work in the true
perspective that I have very briefly outlined. It would probably not be
wise to promulgate publicly so pronounced an affirmation of our
function and of our worth. The popular mind must think in concrete
details rather than in comprehensive principles, when the subject of
thought is a specialized vocation. You and I have crude ideas, no doubt,
of the lawyer's function, of the physician's function, of the
clergyman's function. Not less crude are their ideas of our function.
Even when they patronize us by saying that our work is the noblest that
any man or woman would engage in, they have but a vague and shadowy
perception of its real significance. I doubt not that, with the majority
of those who thus pat us verbally upon the back, the words that they use
are words only. They do not envy us our privileges,--unless it is our
summer vacations,--nor do they encourage their sons to enter service in
our craft. The popular mind--the nontechnical mind,--must work in the
concrete;--it must have visible evidences of power and influence before
it pays homage to a man or to an institution.

Throughout the German empire the traveler is brought constantly face to
face with the memorials that have been erected by a grateful people to
the genius of the Iron Chancellor. Bismarck richly deserves the tribute
that is paid to his memory, but a man to be honored in this way must
exert a tangible and an obvious influence.

And yet, in a broader sense, the preëminence of Germany is due in far
greater measure to two men whose names are not so frequently to be
found inscribed upon towers and monuments. In the very midst of the
havoc and devastation wrought by the Napoleon wars,--at the very moment
when the German people seemed hopelessly crushed and defeated,--an
intellect more penetrating than that of Bismarck grasped the logic of
the situation. With the inspiration that comes with true insight, the
philosopher Fichte issued his famous Addresses to the German people.
With clear-cut argument couched in white-hot words, he drove home the
great principle that lies at the basis of United Germany and upon the
results of which Bismarck and Von Moltke and the first Emperor erected
the splendid structure that to-day commands the admiration of the world.
Fichte told the German people that their only hope lay in universal,
public education. And the kingdom of Prussia--impoverished, bankrupt,
war-ridden, and war-devastated--heard the plea. A great scheme that
comprehended such an education was already at hand. It had fallen almost
stillborn from the only kind of a mind that could have produced it,--a
mind that was suffused with an overwhelming love for humanity and
incomparably rich with the practical experiences of a primary
schoolmaster. It had fallen from the mind of Pestalozzi, the Swiss
reformer, who thus stands with Fichte as one of the vital factors in the
development of Germany's educational supremacy.

The people's schools of Prussia, imbued with the enthusiasm of Fichte
and Pestalozzi,[3] gave to Germany the tremendous advantage that enabled
it so easily to overcome its hereditary foe, when, two generations
later, the Franco-Prussian War was fought; for the _Volksschule_ gave to
Germany something that no other nation of that time possessed; namely,
an educated proletariat, an intelligent common people. Bismarck knew
this when he laid his cunning plans for the unification of German states
that was to crown the brilliant series of victories beginning at Sedan
and ending within the walls of Paris. William of Prussia knew it when,
in the royal palace at Versailles, he accepted the crown that made him
the first Emperor of United Germany. Von Moltke knew it when, at the
capitulation of Paris, he was asked to whom the credit of the victory
was due, and he replied, in the frank simplicity of the true soldier and
the true hero, "The schoolmaster did it."

And yet Bismarck and Von Moltke and the Emperor are the heroes of
Germany, and if Fichte and Pestalozzi are not forgotten, at least their
memories are not cherished as are the memories of the more tangible and
obvious heroes. Instinct lies deeply embedded in human nature and it is
instinctive to think in the concrete. And so I repeat that we cannot
expect the general public to share in the respect and veneration which
you and I feel for our calling, for you and I are technicians in
education, and we can see the process as a comprehensive whole. But our
fellow men and women have their own interests and their own departments
of technical knowledge and skill; they see the schoolhouse and the
pupils' desks and the books and other various material symbols of our
work,--they see these things and call them education; just as we see a
freight train thundering across the viaduct or a steamer swinging out in
the lake and call these things commerce. In both cases, the nontechnical
mind associates the word with something concrete and tangible; in both
cases, the technical mind associates the same word with an abstract
process, comprehending a movement of vast proportions.

To compress such a movement--whether it be commerce or government or
education--in a single conception requires a multitude of experiences
involving actual adjustments with the materials involved; involving
constant reflection upon hidden meanings, painful investigations into
hidden causes, and mastery of a vast body of specialized knowledge which
it takes years of study to digest and assimilate.

It is not every stevedore upon the docks, nor every stoker upon the
steamers, nor every brakeman upon the railroads, who comprehends what
commerce really means. It is not every banker's clerk who knows the
meaning of business. It is not every petty holder of public office who
knows what government really means. But this, at least, is true: in
proportion as the worker knows the meaning of the work that he does,--in
proportion as he sees it in its largest relations to society and to
life,--his work is no longer the drudgery of routine toil. It becomes
instead an intelligent process directed toward a definite goal. It has
acquired that touch of artistry which, so far as human testimony goes,
is the only pure and uncontaminated source of human happiness.

And the chief blessing for which you and I should be thankful to-day is
that this larger view of our calling has been vouchsafed to us as it has
been vouchsafed no former generation of teachers. Education as the
conventional prerogative of the rich,--as the garment which separated
the higher from the lower classes of society,--this could scarcely be
looked upon as a fascinating and uplifting ideal from which to derive
hope and inspiration in the day's work; and yet this was the commonly
accepted function of education for thousands of years, and the teachers
who did the actual work of instruction could not but reflect in their
attitude and bearing the servile character of the task that they
performed. Education to fit the child to earn a better living, to
command a higher wage,--this myopic view of the function of the school
could do but little to make the work of teaching anything but drudgery;
and yet it is this narrow and materialistic view that has dominated our
educational system to within a comparatively few years.

So silently and yet so insistently have our craft ideals been
transformed in the last two decades that you and I are scarcely aware
that our point of view has been changed and that we are looking upon our
work from a much higher point of vantage and in a light entirely new.
And yet this is the change that has been wrought. That education, in its
widest meaning, is the sole conservator and transmitter of civilization
to successive generations found expression as far back as Aristotle and
Plato, and has been vaguely voiced at intervals down through the
centuries; but its complete establishment came only as an indirect issue
of the great scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century, and its
application to the problems of practical schoolcraft and its
dissemination through the rank and file of teachers awaited the dawn of
the twentieth century. To-day we see expressions and indications of the
new outlook upon every hand, in the greatly increased professional zeal
that animates the teacher's calling; in the widespread movement among
all civilized countries to raise the standards of teachers, to eliminate
those candidates for service who have not subjected themselves to the
discipline of special preparation; in the increased endowments and
appropriations for schools and seminaries that prepare teachers; and,
perhaps most strikingly at the present moment, in that concerted
movement to organize into institutions of formal education, all of those
branches of training which have, for years, been left to the chance
operation of economic needs working through the crude and unorganized
though often effective apprentice system. The contemporary fervor for
industrial education is only one expression of this new view that, in
the last analysis, the school must stand sponsor for the conservation
and transmission of every valuable item of experience, every usable fact
or principle, every tiniest perfected bit of technical skill, every
significant ideal or prejudice, that the race has acquired at the cost
of so much struggle and suffering and effort.

I repeat that this new vantage point from which to gain a comprehensive
view of our calling has been attained only as an indirect result of the
scientific investigations of the nineteenth century. We are wont to
study the history of education from the work and writings of a few great
reformers, and it is true that much that is valuable in our present
educational system can be understood and appreciated only when viewed in
the perspective of such sources. Aristotle and Quintilian, Abelard and
St. Thomas Aquinas, Sturm and Philip Melanchthon, Comenius, Pestalozzi,
Rousseau, Herbart, and Froebel still live in the schools of to-day.
Their genius speaks to us through the organization of subject-matter,
through the art of questioning, through the developmental methods of
teaching, through the use of pictures, through objective instruction,
and in a thousand other forms. But this dominant ideal of education to
which I have referred and which is so rapidly transforming our outlook
and vitalizing our organization and inspiring us to new efforts, is not
to be drawn from these sources. The new histories of education must
account for this new ideal, and to do this they must turn to the masters
in science who made the middle part of the nineteenth century the period
of the most profound changes that the history of human thought

With the illuminating principle of evolution came a new and generously
rich conception of human growth and development. The panorama of
evolution carried man back far beyond the limits of recorded human
history and indicated an origin as lowly as the succeeding uplift has
been sublime. The old depressing and fatalistic notion that the human
race was on the downward path, and that the march of civilization must
sooner or later end in a cul-de-sac (a view which found frequent
expression in the French writers of the eighteenth century and which
dominated the skepticism of the dark hours preceding the
Revolution)--this fatalistic view met its death-blow in the principle of
evolution. A vista of hope entirely undreamed of stretched out before
the race. If the tremendous leverage of the untold millenniums of brute
and savage ancestry could be overcome, even in slight measure, by a few
short centuries of intelligence and reason, what might not happen in a
few more centuries of constantly increasing light? In short, the
principle of evolution supplied the perspective that was necessary to an
adequate evaluation of human progress.

But this inspiriting outlook which was perhaps the most comprehensive
result of Darwin's work had indirect consequences that were vitally
significant to education. It is with mental and not with physical
development that education is primarily concerned, and yet mental
development is now known to depend fundamentally upon physical forces.
The same decade that witnessed the publication of the _Origin of
Species_ also witnessed the birth of another great book, little known
except to the specialist, and yet destined to achieve immortality. This
book is the _Elements of Psychophysics_, the work of the German
scientist Fechner. The intimate relation between mental life and
physical and physiological forces was here first clearly demonstrated,
and the way was open for a science of psychology which should cast aside
the old and threadbare raiment of mystery and speculation and
metaphysic, and stand forth naked and unashamed.

But all this was only preparatory to the epoch-making discoveries that
have had so much to do with our present attitude toward education. The
Darwinian hypothesis led to violent controversy, not only between the
opponents and supporters of the theory, but also among the various camps
of the evolutionists themselves. Among these controversies was that
which concerned itself with the inheritance of acquired characteristics,
and the outcome of that conflict has a direct significance to present
educational theory. The principle, now almost conclusively
established,[5] that the characteristics acquired by an organism during
its lifetime are not transmitted by physical heredity to its offspring,
must certainly stand as the basic principle of education; for everything
that we identify as human as contrasted with that which is brutal must
look to education for its preservation and support. It has been stated
by competent authorities that, during the past ten thousand years, there
has been no significant change in man's physical constitution. This
simply means that Nature finished her work as far as man is concerned
far beyond the remotest period that human history records; that, for all
that we can say to-day, there must have existed in the very distant past
human beings who were just as well adapted by nature to the lives that
we are leading as we are to-day adapted; that what they lacked and what
we possess is simply a mass of traditions, of habits, of ideals, and
prejudices which have been slowly accumulated through the ages and which
are passed on from generation to generation by imitation and instruction
and training and discipline; and that the child of to-day, left to his
own devices and operated upon in no way by the products of
civilization, would develop into a savage undistinguishable in all
significant qualities from other savages.

The possibilities that follow from such a conception are almost
overwhelming even at first glance, and yet the theory is borne out by
adequate experiments. The transformation of the Japanese people through
two generations of education in Western civilization is a complete
upsetting of the old theory that as far as race is concerned, there is
anything significantly important in blood, and confirms the view that
all that is racially significant depends upon the influences that
surround the young of the race during the formative years. The complete
assimilation of foreign ingredients into our own national stock through
the instrumentality of the public school is another demonstration that
the factors which form the significant characteristics in the lower
animals possess but a minimum of significance to man,--that color, race,
stature, and even brain weight and the shape of the cranium, have very
little to do with human worth or human efficiency save in extremely
abnormal cases.

And so we have at last a fundamental principle with which to illumine
the field of our work and from which to derive not only light but
inspiration. Unite this with John Fiske's penetrating induction that the
possibilities of progress through education are correlated directly with
the length of the period of growth or immaturity,--that is, that the
races having the longest growth before maturity are capable of the
highest degree of civilization,--and we have a pair of principles the
influence of which we see reflected all about us in the great activity
for education and especially in the increased sense of pride and
responsibility and respect for his calling that is animating the modern

And what will be the result of this new point of view? First and
foremost, an increased general respect for the work. Until a profession
respects itself, it cannot very well ask for the world's respect, and
until it can respect itself on the basis of scientific principles
indubitably established, its respect for itself will be little more than
the irritating self-esteem of the goody-goody order which is so often
associated with our craft.

With our own respect for our calling, based upon this incontrovertible
principle, will come, sooner or later, increased compensation for the
work and increased prestige in the community. I repeat that these things
can only come after we have established a true craft spirit. If we are
ashamed of our calling, if we regret openly and publicly that we are not
lawyers or physicians or dentists or bricklayers or farmers or anything
rather than teachers, the public will have little respect for the
teacher's calling. As long as we criticize each other before laymen and
make light of each other's honest efforts, the public will question our
professional standing on the ground that we have no organized code of
professional ethics,--a prerequisite for any profession.

I started out to tell you something that we ought to be thankful
for,--something that ought to counteract in a measure the inevitable
tendencies toward pessimism and discouragement. The hopeful thing about
our present status is that we have an established principle upon which
to work. A writer in a recent periodical stoutly maintained that
education was in the position just now that medicine was in during the
Middle Ages. The statement is hardly fair, either to medicine or to
education. If one were to attempt a parallel, one might say that
education stands to-day where medicine stood about the middle of the
nineteenth century. The analogy might be more closely drawn by comparing
our present conception of education with the conception of medicine just
prior to the application of the experimental method to a solution of its
problems. Education has still a long road to travel before it reaches
the point of development that medicine has to-day attained. It has still
to develop principles that are comparable to the doctrine of lymph
therapy or to that latest triumph of investigation in the field of
medicine,--the theory of opsonins,--which almost makes one believe that
in a few years violent accident and old age will be the only sources of
death in the human race.

Education, we admit, has a long road to travel before it reaches so
advanced a point of development. But there is no immediate cause for
pessimism or despair. We need especially, now that the purpose of
education is adequately defined, an adequate doctrine of educational
values and a rich and vital infusion of the spirit of experimental
science. For efficiency in the work of instruction and training, we need
to know the influence of different types of experience in controlling
human conduct,--we need to know just what degree of efficiency is
exerted by our arithmetic and literature, our geography and history, our
drawing and manual training, our Latin and Greek, our ethics and
psychology. It is the lack of definite ideas and criteria in these
fields that constitutes the greatest single source of waste in our
educational system to-day.

And yet even here the outlook is extremely hopeful. The new movement
toward industrial education is placing greater and greater emphasis upon
those subjects of instruction and those types of methods whose
efficiency can be tested and determined in an accurate fashion. The
intimate relation between the classroom, on the one hand, and the
machine shop, the experimental farm, the hospital ward and operating
room, and the practice school, on the other hand, indicates a source of
accurate knowledge with regard to the way in which our teachings really
affect the conduct and adjustment of our pupils that cannot fail within
a short time to serve as the basis for some illuminating principle of
educational values. This, I believe, will be the next great step in the
development of our profession.

There has been no intention in what I have said to minimize the
disadvantages and discouragements under which we are to-day doing our
work. My only plea is for the hopeful and optimistic outlook which, I
maintain, is richly justified by the progress that has already been made
and by the virile character of the forces that are operating in the
present situation.

On the whole, I can see no reason why I should not encourage young men
to enter the service of schoolcraft. I cannot say to them that they will
attain to great wealth, but I can safely promise them that, if they give
to the work of preparation the same attention and time that they would
give to their education and training for medicine or law or engineering,
their services will be in large demand and their rewards not to be
sneered at. Their incomes will not enable them to compete with the
captains of industry, but they will permit as full an enjoyment of the
comforts of life as it is good for any young man to command. But the
ambitious teacher must pay the price to reap these rewards,--the price
of time and energy and labor,--the price that he would have to pay for
success in any other human calling. What I cannot promise him in
education is the opportunity for wide popular adulation, but this, after
all, is a matter of taste. Some men crave it and they should go into
those vocations that will give it to them. Others are better satisfied
with the discriminating recognition and praise of their own


[Footnote 2: An address before the Oswego, New York, County Council of
Education, March 28, 1908.]

[Footnote 3: It should be added that the movement toward universal
education in Germany owed much to the work of pre-Pestalozzian
reformers,--especially Francke and Basedow.]

[Footnote 4: While the years from 1840 to 1870 mark the period of
intellectual revolution, it should not be inferred that the education of
this period reflected these fundamental changes of outlook. On the
contrary, these years were in general marked by educational stagnation.]

[Footnote 5: The writer here accepts the conclusions of J.A. Thomson
(_Heredity_ New York, 1908, ch. vii).]




Efficiency seems to be a word to conjure with in these days. Popular
speech has taken it in its present connotation from the technical
vocabulary of engineering, and the term has brought with it a very
refreshing sense of accuracy and practicality. It suggests blueprints
and T-squares and mathematical formulæ. A faint and rather pleasant odor
of lubricating oil and cotton waste seems to hover about it. The
efficiency of a steam engine or a dynamo is a definitely determinable
and measurable factor, and when we use the term "efficiency" in popular
speech we convey through the word somewhat of this quality of certainty
and exactitude.

An efficient man, very obviously, is a man who "makes good," who
surmounts obstacles, overcomes difficulties, and "gets results." Rowan,
the man who achieved immortality on account of a certain message that he
carried to Garcia, is the contemporary standard of human efficiency. He
was given a task to do, and he did it. He did not stop to inquire
whether it was interesting, or whether it was easy, or whether it would
be remunerative, or whether Garcia was a pleasant man to meet. He simply
took the message and brought back the answer. Here we have efficiency in
human endeavor reduced to its lowest terms: to take a message and to
bring back an answer; to do the work that is laid out for one to do
without shirking or "soldiering" or whining; and to "make good," to get

Now if we are to improve the efficiency of the teacher, the first thing
to do is to see that the conditions of efficiency are fulfilled as far
as possible at the outset. In other words, efficiency is impossible
unless one is set a certain task to accomplish. Rowan was told to carry
a message to Garcia. He was to carry it to Garcia, not to Queen Victoria
or Li Hung Chang or J. Pierpont Morgan, or any one else whom he may have
felt inclined to choose as its recipient. And that is just where Rowan
had a decided advantage over many teachers who have every ambition to be
just as efficient as he was. To expect a young teacher not only to get
results, but also to determine the results that should be obtained,
multiplies his chances of failure, not by two, as one might assume at
first thought, but almost by infinity.

Let me give an example of what I mean. A young man graduated from
college during the hard times of the middle nineties. It was imperative
that he secure some sort of a remunerative employment, but places were
very scarce and he had to seek a long time before he found anything to
which he could turn his hand. The position that he finally secured was
that of teacher in an ungraded school in a remote settlement.
School-teaching was far from his thoughts and still farther from his
ambitions, but forty dollars a month looked too good to be true,
especially as he had come to the point where his allowance of food
consisted of one plate of soup each day, with the small supply of
crackers that went with it. He accepted the position most gratefully.

He taught this school for two years. He had no supervision. He read
various books on the science and art of teaching and upon a certain
subject that went by the name of psychology, but he could see no
connection between what these books told him and the tasks that he had
to face. Finally he bought a book that was advertised as indispensable
to young teachers. The first words of the opening paragraph were these:
"Teacher, if you know it all, don't read this book." The young man threw
the volume in the fire. He had no desire to profit by the teaching of an
author who began his instruction with an insult. From that time until he
left the school, he never opened a book on educational theory.

His first year passed off with what appeared to be the most encouraging
success. He talked to his pupils on science and literature and history.
They were very good children, and they listened attentively. When he
tired of talking, he set the pupils to writing in their copy books,
while he thought of more things to talk about. He covered a great deal
of ground that first year. Scarcely a field of human knowledge was left
untouched. His pupils were duly informed about the plants and rocks and
trees, about the planets and constellations, about atoms and molecules
and the laws of motion, about digestion and respiration and the wonders
of the nervous system, about Shakespeare and Dickens and George Eliot.
And his pupils were very much interested in it all. Their faces had that
glow of interest, that look of wonderment and absorption, that you get
sometimes when you tell a little four-year-old the story of the three
bears. He never had any troubles of discipline, because he never asked
his pupils to do anything that they did not wish to do. There were six
pupils in his "chart class." They were anxious to learn to read, and
three of them did learn. Their mothers taught them at home. The other
three were still learning at the end of the second year. He concluded
that they had been "born short," but he liked them and they liked him.
He did not teach his pupils spelling or writing. If they learned these
things they learned them without his aid, and it is safe to say that
they did not learn them in any significant measure. He did not like
arithmetic, and so he just touched on it now and then for the sake of

This teacher was elected for the following year at a handsome increase
of salary. He took this to mean a hearty indorsement of his methods;
consequently he followed the same general plan the next year. He had
told his pupils about everything that he knew, so he started over again,
much to their delight. He left at the close of the year, amidst general
lamentation. School-teaching was a delightful occupation, but he had
mastered the art, and now he wished to attack something that was really
difficult. He would study law. It is no part of the story that he did
not. Neither is it part of the story that his successor had a very hard
time getting that school straightened out; in fact, I believe it
required three or four successive successors to make even an impression.

Now that man's work was a failure, and the saddest kind of a failure,
for he did not realize that he had failed until years afterward. He
failed, not because he lacked ambition and enthusiasm; he had a large
measure of both these indispensable qualities. He failed, not because he
lacked education and a certain measure of what the world calls culture;
from the standpoint of education, he was better qualified than most
teachers in schools of that type. He failed, not because he lacked
social spirit and the ability to coöperate with the church and the home;
he mingled with the other members of the community, lived their life and
thought their thoughts and enjoyed their social diversions. The
community liked him and respected him. His pupils liked him and
respected him; and yet what he fears most of all to-day is that he may
come suddenly face to face with one of those pupils and be forced to
listen to a first-hand account of his sins of omission.

This man failed simply because he did not do what the elementary teacher
must do if he is to be efficient as an elementary teacher. He did not
train his pupils in the habits that are essential to one who is to live
the social life. He gave them a miscellaneous lot of interesting
information which held their attention while it lasted, but which was
never mastered in any real sense of the term, and which could have but
the most superficial influence upon their future conduct. But, worst of
all, he permitted bad and inadequate habits to be developed at the most
critical and plastic period of life. His pupils had followed the lines
of least effort, just as he had followed the lines of least effort. The
result was a well-established prejudice against everything that was not
superficially attractive and intrinsically interesting.

Now this man's teaching fell short simply because he did not know what
results he ought to obtain. He had been given a message to deliver, but
he did not know to whom he should deliver it. Consequently he brought
the answer, not from Garcia, but from a host of other personages with
whom he was better acquainted, whose language he could speak and
understand, and from whom he was certain of a warm welcome. In other
words, having no definite results for which he would be held
responsible, he did the kind of teaching that he liked to do. That
might, under certain conditions, have been the best kind of teaching
for his pupils. But these conditions did not happen to operate at that
time. The answer that he brought did not happen to be the answer that
was needed. That it pleased his employers does not in the least mitigate
the failure. That a teacher pleases the community in which he works is
not always evidence of his success. It is dangerous to make a statement
like this, for some are sure to jump to the opposite conclusion and
assume that one who is unpopular in the community is the most
successful. Needless to say, the reasoning is fallacious. The matter of
popularity is a secondary criterion, not a primary criterion of the
efficiency of teaching. One may be successful and popular or successful
and unpopular; unsuccessful and popular or unsuccessful and unpopular.
The question of popularity is beside the question of efficiency,
although it may enter into specific cases as a factor.


And so the first step to take in getting more efficient work from young
teachers, and especially from inexperienced and untrained teachers fresh
from the high school or the college, is to make sure that they know what
is expected of them. Now this looks to be a very simple precaution that
no one would be unwise enough to omit. As a matter of fact, a great many
superintendents and principals are not explicit and definite about the
results that they desire. Very frequently all that is asked of a
teacher is that he or she keep things running smoothly, keep pupils and
parents good-natured. Let me assert again that this ought to be done,
but that it is no measure of a teacher's efficiency, simply because it
can be done and often is done by means that defeat the purpose of the
school. As a young principal in a city system, I learned some vital
lessons in supervision from a very skillful teacher. She would come to
me week after week with this statement: "Tell me what you want done, and
I will do it." It took me some time to realize that that was just what I
was being paid to do,--telling teachers what should be accomplished and
then seeing that they accomplished the task that was set. When I finally
awoke to my duties, I found myself utterly at a loss to make
prescriptions. I then learned that there was a certain document known as
the course of study, which mapped out the general line of work and
indicated the minimal requirements. I had seen this course of study, but
its function had never impressed itself upon me. I had thought that it
was one of those documents that officials publish as a matter of form
but which no one is ever expected to read. But I soon discovered that a
principal had something to do besides passing from room to room, looking
wisely at the work going on, and patting little boys and girls on the

Now a definite course of study is very hard to construct,--a course that
will tell explicitly what the pupils of each grade should acquire each
term or half-term in the way of habits, knowledge, ideals, attitudes,
and prejudices. But such a course of study is the first requisite to
efficiency in teaching. The system that goes by hit or miss, letting
each teacher work out his own salvation in any way that he may see fit,
is just an aggregation of such schools as that which I have described.

It is true that reformers have very strenuously criticized the policy of
restricting teachers to a definite course of study. They have maintained
that it curtails individual initiative and crushes enthusiasm. It does
this in a certain measure. Every prescription is in a sense a
restriction. The fact that the steamship captain must head his ship for
Liverpool instead of wherever he may choose to go is a restriction, and
the captain's individuality is doubtless crushed and his initiative
limited. But this result seems to be inevitable and he generally manages
to survive the blow. The course of study must be to the teacher what the
sailing orders are to the captain of the ship, what the stated course is
to the wheelsman and the officer on the bridge, what the time-table is
to the locomotive engineer, what Garcia and the message and the answer
were to Rowan. One may decry organization and prescription in our
educational system. One may say that these things tend inevitably toward
mechanism and formalism and the stultifying of initiative. But the fact
remains that, whenever prescription is abandoned, efficiency in general
is at an end.

And so I maintain that every teacher has a right to know what he is to
be held responsible for, what is expected of him, and that this
information be just as definite and unequivocal as it can be made. It is
under the stress of definite responsibility that growth is most rapid
and certain. The more uncertain and intangible the end to be gained, the
less keenly will one feel the responsibility for gaining that end.
Unhappily we cannot say to a teacher: "Here is a message. Take it to
Garcia. Bring the answer." But we may make our work far more definite
and tangible than it is now. The courses of study are becoming more and
more explicit each year. Vague and general prescriptions are giving
place to definite and specific prescriptions. The teachers know what
they are expected to do, and knowing this, they have some measure for
testing the efficiency of their own efforts.


But to make more definite requirements is, after all, only the first
step in improving efficiency. It is not sufficient that one know what
results are wanted; one must also know how these results may be
obtained. Improvement in method means improvement in efficiency, and a
crying need in education to-day is a scientific investigation of methods
of teaching. Teachers should be made acquainted with the methods that
are most economical and efficient. As a matter of fact, whatever is done
in that direction at the present time must be almost entirely confined
to suggestions and hints.

Our discussions of methods of teaching may be divided into three
classes: (1) Dogmatic assertions that such and such a method is right
and that all others are wrong--assertions based entirely upon _a priori_
reasoning. For example, the assertion that children must never be
permitted to learn their lessons "by heart" is based upon the general
principle that words are only symbols of ideas and that, if one has
ideas, one can find words of his own in which to formulate them. (2) A
second class of discussions of method comprises descriptions of devices
that have proved successful in certain instances and with certain
teachers. (3) Of a third class of discussions there are very few
representative examples. I refer to methods that have been established
on the basis of experiments in which irrelevant factors have been
eliminated. In fact, I know of no clearly defined report or discussion
of this sort. An approach to a scientific solution of a definite problem
of method is to be found in Browne's monograph, _The Psychology of
Simple Arithmetical Processes_. Another example is represented by the
experiments of Miss Steffens, Marx Lobsien, and others, regarding the
best methods of memorizing, and proving beyond much doubt that the
complete repetition is more economical than the partial repetition. But
these conclusions have, of course, only a limited field of application
to practical teaching. We stand in great need of a definite experimental
investigation of the detailed problems of teaching upon which there is
wide divergence of opinion. A very good illustration is the controversy
between the how and the why in primary arithmetic. In this case, there
is a vast amount of "opinion," but there are no clearly defined
conclusions drawn from accurate tests. It would seem possible to do work
of this sort concerning the details of method in the teaching of
arithmetic, spelling, grammar, penmanship, and geography.


Lacking this accurate type of data regarding methods, the next recourse
is to the actual teaching of those teachers who are recognized as
efficient. Wherever such a teacher may be found, his or her work is well
worth the most careful sort of study. Success, of course, may be due to
other factors than the methods employed,--to personality, for example.
But, in every case of recognized efficiency in teaching that I have
observed, I have found that the methods employed have, in the main, been
productive of good results when used by others. The experienced teacher
comes, through a process of trial and error, to select, perhaps
unconsciously, the methods that work best. Sometimes these are not
always to be identified with the methods that theoretical pedagogy had
worked out from _a priori_ bases. For example, the type of lesson which
I call the "deductive development" lesson[7] is one that is not included
in the older discussions of method; yet it accurately describes one of
the methods employed by a very successful teacher whose work I

One way, then, to improve the efficiency of young teachers, in so far as
improvement in methods leads to improved efficiency, is to encourage the
observation of expert teaching. The plan of giving teachers visiting
days often brings excellent results, especially if the teacher looks
upon the privilege in the proper light. The hyper-critical spirit is
fatal to growth under any condition. Whenever a teacher has come to the
conclusion that he or she has nothing to learn from studying the work of
others, anabolism has ceased and katabolism has set in. The
self-sufficiency of our craft is one of its weakest characteristics. It
is the factor that more than any other discounts it in the minds of
laymen. Fortunately it is less frequently a professional characteristic
than in former years, but it still persists in some quarters. I recently
met a "pedagogue" who impressed me as the most "knowing" individual that
it had ever been my privilege to become acquainted with. An enthusiastic
friend of his, in dilating upon this man's virtues, used these words:
"When you propose a subject of conversation in whatever field you may
choose, you will find that he has mastered it to bed rock. He will go
over it once and you think that he is wise. He starts at the beginning
and goes over it again, and you realize that he is deep. Once more he
traverses the same ground, but he is so far down now that you cannot
follow him, and then you are aware that he is profound." That sort of
profundity is still not rare in the field of general education. The
person who has all possible knowledge pigeonholed and classified is
still in our midst. The pedant still does the cause of education
incalculable injury.

Of the use to which reading circles may be put in improving the
efficiency of teaching, it is necessary to say but little. Such
organizations, under wise leadership, may doubtless be made to serve a
good purpose in promoting professional enthusiasm. The difficulty with
using them to promote immediate and direct efficiency lies in the
paucity of the literature that is at our disposal. Most of our
present-day works upon education are very general in their nature. They
are not without their value, but this value is general and indirect
rather than immediate and specific. A book like Miss Winterburn's
_Methods of Teaching_, or Chubb's _Teaching of English_[8] is especially
valuable for young teachers who are looking for first-hand helps. But
books like this are all too rare in our literature.

On the whole, I think that the improvement of teachers in the matter of
methods is the most unsatisfactory part of our problem.[9] All that one
can say is that the work of the best teachers should be observed
carefully and faithfully, that the methods upon which there is little or
no dispute should be given and accepted as standard, but that one should
be very careful about giving young teachers an idea that there is any
single form under which all teaching can be subsumed. I know of no term
that is more thoroughly a misnomer in our technical vocabulary than the
term "general method." I teach a subject that often goes by that name,
but I always take care to explain that the name does not mean, in my
class, what the words seem to signify. There are certain broad and
general principles which describe very crudely and roughly and
inadequately certain phases of certain processes that mind undergoes in
organizing experience--perception, apperception, conception, induction,
deduction, inference, generalization, and the like. But these terms have
only a vague and general connotation; or, if their connotation is
specific and definite, it has been made so by an artificial process of
definition in which counsel is darkened by words without meaning. The
only full-fledged law that I know of in the educative process is the law
of habit building--(1) focalization, (2) attentive repetition at
intervals of increasing length, (3) permitting no exception--and I am
often told that this "law" is fallacious. It has differed from some
other so-called laws, however, in this respect: it always works.
Whenever a complex habit is adduced that has not been formed through the
operation of this law, I am willing to give it up.


A third general method of improving the efficiency of teaching is to
build up the notion of responsibility for results. The teacher must not
only take the message and deliver it to Garcia, or to some other
individual as definite and tangible, but he must also bring the answer.
So far as I know there is no other way to insure a maximum of efficiency
than to demand certain results and to hold the individual responsible
for gaining these results. The present standards of the teaching craft
are less rigorous than they should be in this respect. We need a craft
spirit that will judge every man impartially by his work, not by
secondary criteria. You remember Finlayson in Kipling's _Bridge
Builders_, and the agony with which he watched the waters of the Ganges
tearing away at the caissons of his new bridge. A vital question of
Finlayson's life was to be answered by the success or failure of those
caissons to resist the flood. If they should yield, it meant not only
the wreck of the bridge, but the wreck of his career; for, as Kipling
says, "Government might listen, perhaps, but his own kind would judge
him by his bridge as that stood or fell."

President Hall has said that one of the last sentiments to be developed
in human nature is "the sense of responsibility, which is one of the
highest and most complex psychic qualities." How to develop this
sentiment of responsibility is one of the most pressing problems of
education. And the problem is especially pressing in those departments
of education that train for social service. To engender in the young
teacher an effective prejudice against scamped work, against the making
of excuses, against the seductive allurements of ease and comfort and
the lines of least resistance is one of the most important duties that
is laid upon the normal school, the training school, and the teachers'
college. To do well the work that has been set for him to do should be
the highest ambition of every worker, the ambition to which all other
ambitions and desires are secondary and subordinate. Pride in the
mastery of the technique of one's calling is the most wholesome and
helpful sort of pride that a man can indulge in. The joy of doing each
day's work in the best possible manner is the keenest joy of life. But
this pride and this joy do not come at the outset. Like all other good
things of life, they come only as the result of effort and struggle and
strenuous self-discipline and dogged perseverance. The emotional
coloring which gives these things their subjective worth is a matter
very largely of contrast. Success must stand out against a background of
struggle, or the chief virtue of success--the consciousness of
conquest--will be entirely missed. That sort of success means strength;
for strength of mind is nothing more than the ability to "hew to the
line," to follow a given course of effort to a successful conclusion, no
matter how long and how tedious be the road that one must travel, no
matter how disagreeable are the tasks involved, no matter how tempting
are the insidious siren songs of momentary fancy.

What teachers need--what all workers need--is to be inspired with those
ideals and prejudices that will enable them to work steadfastly and
unremittingly toward the attainment of a stated end. What inspired Rowan
with those ideals of efficiency that enabled him to carry his message
and bring back the answer, I do not know, but if he was a soldier, I do
not hesitate to hazard an opinion. Our regular army stands as the
clearest type of efficient service which is available for our study and
emulation. The work of Colonel Goethals on the Panama Canal bids fair to
be the finest fruit of the training that we give to the officers of our
army. If we wish to learn the fundamental virtues of that training, it
is not sufficient to study the curriculum of the Military Academy.
Technical knowledge and skill are essential to such results, but they
are not the prime essentials. If you wish to know what the prime
essentials are, let me refer you to a series of papers, entitled _The
Spirit of Old West Point_, which ran through a recent volume of the
_Atlantic Monthly_ and which has since been published in book form.
They constitute, to my mind, one of the most important educational
documents of the present decade. The army service is efficient because
it is inspired with effective ideals of service,--ideals in which every
other desire and ambition is totally and completely subordinated to the
ideal of duty. To those who maintain that close organization and
definite prescription kill initiative and curtail efficiency, the record
of West Point and the army service should be a silencing argument.

And yet education is more important than war; more important, even, than
the building of the Panama Canal. We believe, and rightly, that no
training is too good for our military and naval officers; that no
discipline which will produce the appropriate habits and ideals and
prejudices is too strenuous; that no individual sacrifice of comfort or
ease is too costly. Equal or even commensurable efficiency in education
can come only through a like process. From the times of the ancient
Egyptians to the present day, one vital truth has been revealed in every
forward movement; the homely truth that you cannot make bricks without
straw; you cannot win success without effort; you cannot attain
efficiency without undergoing the processes of discipline; and
discipline means only this: doing things that you do not want to do, for
the sake of reaching some end that ought to be attained.

The normal schools and the training schools and the teachers' colleges
must be the nurseries of craft ideals and standards. The instruction
that they offer must be upon a plane that will command respect. The
intolerable pedantry and the hypocritical goody-goodyism must be
banished forever. The crass sentimentalism by which we attempt to cover
our paucity of craft ideals must also be eliminated. Those who are most
strongly imbued with ideals are not those who cheapen the value of
ideals by constant verbal reiteration. Ideals do not often come through
explicitly imparted precepts. They come through more impalpable and
hidden channels,--now through stately buildings with vine-covered towers
from which the past speaks in the silence of great halls and cloistered
retreats; now through the unwritten and scarcely spoken traditions that
are expressed in the very bearing and attitude of those to whom youth
looks for inspiration and guidance; now through a dominant and powerful
personality, sometimes rough and crude, sometimes warm-hearted and
lovable, but always sincere. Traditions and ideals are the most
priceless part of a school's equipment, and the school that can give
these things to its students in richest measure will have the greatest
influence on the succeeding generations.


[Footnote 6: A paper read before the Normal and Training Teachers'
Conference of the New York State Teachers' Association, December 27,

[Footnote 7: See _Educative Process_, New York, 1910, Chapter XX.]

[Footnote 8: Rowe's _Habit Formation_ (New York, 1909), Briggs and
Coffman's _Reading in Public Schools_ (Chicago, 1908), Foght's _The
American Rural School_, Adams's _Exposition and Illustration in Class
Teaching_ (New York, 1910), and Perry's _Problems of Elementary
Education_ (New York, 1910) should certainly be added to this list.]

[Footnote 9: "It seems to me one of the most pressing problems in
pedagogy to-day is that of method.... It is the subject in which
teachers of pedagogy in Colleges and Universities are weakest to-day. Of
what practical value is all our study of educational psychology or the
history of education, our child study, our experimental pedagogy, if it
does not finally result in the devising of better methods of teaching,
and make the teacher more skillful and effective in his work."--T.M.
BALLIET: "Undergraduate Instruction in Pedagogy," _Pedagogical
Seminary_, vol. xvii, 1910, p. 67.]




I know of no way in which I can better introduce my subject than to
describe very briefly the work of a superintendent who once furnished me
with an example of a definite and effective method of supervision. This
man was a "long range" superintendent. It was impossible for him to
visit his schools very frequently, and so he did the next best thing: he
had the schools brought to him. When I first saw him he was poring over
a pile of papers that had just come in from one of his schools. I soon
discovered that these papers were arranged in sets, each set being made
up of samples taken each week from the work of the pupils in the schools
under his supervision. The papers of each pupil were arranged in
chronological order, and by looking through the set, he could note the
growth that the pupil in question had made since the beginning of the
term. Upon these papers, the superintendent recorded his judgment of the
amount of improvement shown both in form and in content.

I was particularly impressed by the character of his criticisms. There
was nothing vague or intangible about them. Every annotation was clear
and definite. If penmanship happened to be the point at issue, he would
note that the lines were too close together; that the letters did not
have sufficient individuality; that the spaces between the words were
not sufficiently wide; that the indentation was inadequate; that the
writing was cramped, showing that the pen had not been held properly;
that the margin needed correction. If the papers were defective from the
standpoint of language, the criticisms were equally clear and definite.
One pupil had misspelled the same word in three successive papers. "Be
sure that this word appears in the next spelling list," was the comment
of the superintendent. Another pupil habitually used a bit of false
syntax: "Place this upon the list of errors to be taken up and
corrected." Still others were uncertain about paragraphing: "Devote a
language lesson to the paragraph before the next written exercise." On
the covers of each bundle of class papers, he wrote directions and
suggestions of a more general nature; for example: "Improvement is not
sufficiently marked; try for better results next time"; or: "I note that
the pupils draw rather than write; look out for free movement." Often,
too, there were words of well-merited praise: "I like the way in which
your pupils have responded to their drill. This is good. Keep it up."
And not infrequently suggestions were made as to content: "Tell this
story in greater detail next time, and have it reproduced again"; or:
"The form of these papers is good, but the nature study is poor; don't
sacrifice thought to form."

In similar fashion, the other written work was gone over and annotated.
Every pupil in this system of schools had a sample of his written work
examined at regular and frequent intervals by the superintendent. Every
teacher knew just what her chief demanded in the way of results, and did
her best to gain the results demanded. I am not taking the position that
the results that were demanded represented the highest ideals of what
the elementary school should accomplish. Good penmanship and good
spelling and good language, in the light of contemporary educational
thought, seem to be something like happiness--you get them in larger
measure the less you think about getting them. But this possible
objection aside, the superintendent in question had developed a system
which kept him in very close touch with the work that was being done in
widely separated schools.

He told me further that, on the infrequent occasions when he could visit
his classrooms, he gave most of his time and attention to the matters
that could not be supervised at "long range." He found out how the
pupils were improving in their reading, and especially in oral
expression, in its syntax, its freedom from errors of construction, its
clearness and fluency. He listed the common errors, directing his
teachers to take them up in a systematic manner and eradicate them, and
he did not fail to note at his next visit how much progress had been
made. He noted the condition of the blackboard work, and kept a list of
the improvements that he suggested. He tested for rapidity in
arithmetical processes, for the papers sent to his office gave him only
an index of accuracy. He noted the habits of personal cleanliness that
were being developed or neglected. In fact, he had a long list of
specific standards that he kept continually in mind, the progress toward
which he constantly watched. And last, but by no means least, he carried
with him wherever he went an atmosphere of breezy good nature and
cheerfulness, for he had mastered the first principle in the art of both
supervision and teaching; he had learned that the best way to promote
growth in either pupils or teachers is neither to let them do as they
please nor to force them to do as you please, but to get them to please
to do what you please to have them do.

I instance this superintendent as one type of efficiency in supervision.
He was efficient, not simply because he had a system that scrutinized
every least detail of his pupils' growth, but because that scrutiny
really insured growth. He obtained the results that he desired, and he
obtained uniformly good results from a large number of young, untrained
teachers. We have all heard of the superintendent who boasted that he
could tell by looking at his watch just what any pupil in any classroom
was doing at just that moment. Surely here system was not lacking. But
the boast did not strike the vital point. It is not what the pupil is
doing that is fundamentally important, but what he is gaining from his
activity or inactivity; what he is gaining in the way of habits, in the
way of knowledge, in the way of standards and ideals and prejudices, all
of which are to govern his future conduct. The superintendent whom I
have described had the qualities of balance and perspective that enabled
him to see both the woods and the trees. And let me add that he taught
regularly in his own central high school, and that practically all of
his supervision was accomplished after school hours and on Saturdays.

But my chief reason for choosing his work as a type is that it
represents a successful effort to supervise that part of school work
which is most difficult and irksome to supervise; namely, the formation
of habits. Whatever one's ideals of education may be, it still remains
true that habit building is the most important duty of the elementary
school, and that the efficiency of habit building can be tested in no
other way than by the means that he employed; namely, the careful
comparison of results at successive stages of the process.


The essence of a true habit is its purely automatic character. Reaction
must follow upon the stimulus instantaneously, without thought,
reflection, or judgment. One has not taught spelling efficiently until
spelling is automatic, until the correct form flows from the pen without
the intervention of mind. The real test of the pupil's training in
spelling is his ability to spell the word correctly when he is thinking,
not about spelling, but about the content of the sentence that he is
writing. Consequently the test of efficiency in spelling is not an
examination in spelling, although this may be valuable as a means to an
end, but rather the infrequency with which misspelled words appear in
the composition work, letter writing, and other written work of the
pupil. Similarly in language and grammar, it is not sufficient to
instruct in rules of syntax. This is but the initial process.
Grammatical rules function effectively only when they function
automatically. So long as one must think and judge and reflect upon the
form of one's expression, the expression is necessarily awkward and

The same rule holds in respect of the fundamental processes of
arithmetic. It holds in penmanship, in articulation and enunciation, in
word recognition, in moral conduct and good manners; in fact, in all of
the basic work for which the elementary school must stand sponsor. And
one source of danger in the newer methods of education lies in the
tendency to overlook the importance of carrying habit-building processes
through to a successful issue. The reaction against drill, against
formal work of all sorts, is a healthful reaction in many ways. It bids
fair to break up the mechanical lock step of the elementary grades, and
to introduce some welcome life, and vigor, and wholesomeness. But it
will sadly defeat its own purpose if it underrates the necessity of
habit building as the basic activity of early education.

What is needed, now that we have got away from the lock step, now that
we are happily emancipated from the meaningless thralldom of mechanical
repetition and the worship of drill for its own sake--what is needed now
is not less drill, but better drill. And this should be the net result
of the recent reforms in elementary education. In our first enthusiasm,
we threw away the spelling book, poked fun at the multiplication tables,
decried basal reading, and relieved ourselves of much wit and sarcasm at
the expense of formal grammar. But now we are swinging back to the
adequate recognition of the true purpose of drill. And in the wake of
this newer conception, we are learning that its drudgery may be
lightened and its efficiency heightened by the introduction of a richer
content that shall provide a greater variety in the repetitions, insure
an adequate motive for effort, and relieve the dead monotony that
frequently rendered the older methods so futile. I look forward to the
time when to be an efficient drillmaster in this newer sense of the term
will be to have reached one of the pinnacles of professional skill.


But there is another side of teaching that must be supervised. Although
habit is responsible for nine tenths of conduct, the remaining tenth
must not be neglected. In situations where habit is not adequate to
adjustment, judgment and reflection must come to the rescue, or should
come to the rescue. This means that, instead of acting without thought,
as in the case of habit, one analyzes the situation and tries to solve
it by the application of some fact or principle that has been gained
either from one's own experience or from the experience of others. This
is the field in which knowledge comes to its own; and a very important
task of education is to fix in the pupils' minds a number of facts and
principles that will be available for application to the situations of
later life.

How, then, is the efficiency of instruction (as distinguished from
training or habit building) to be tested? Needless to say, an adequate
test is impossible from the very nature of the situation. The efficiency
of imparting knowledge can be tested only by the effect that this
knowledge has upon later conduct; and this, it will be agreed, cannot be
accurately determined until the pupil has left the school and is face to
face with the problems of real life.

In practice, however, we adopt a more or less effective substitute for
the real test--the substitute called the examination. We all know that
the ultimate purpose of instruction is not primarily to enable pupils
successfully to pass examinations. And yet as long as we teach as though
this were the main purpose we might as well believe it to be. Now the
examination may be made a very valuable test of the efficiency of
instruction if its limitations are fully recognized and if it does not
obscure the true purpose of instruction. And if we remember that the
true purpose is to impart facts in such a manner that they may not only
"stick" in the pupil's mind, but that they may also be amenable to
recall and practical application, and if we set our examination
questions with some reference to this requirement, then I believe that
we shall find the examination a dependable test.

One important point is likely to be overlooked in the consideration of
examinations,--the fact, namely, that the form and content of the
questions have a very powerful influence in determining the content and
methods of instruction. Is it not pertinent, then, to inquire whether
examination questions cannot be so framed as radically to improve
instruction rather than to encourage, as is often the case, methods that
are pedagogically unsound? Granted that it is well for the child to
memorize verbatim certain unrelated facts, even to memorize some facts
that have no immediate bearing upon his life, granted that this is
valuable (and I think that a little of it is), is it necessary that an
entire year or half-year be given over almost entirely to "cramming up"
on old questions? Would it not be possible so to frame examination
questions that the "cramming" process would be practically valueless?

What the pupil should get from geography, for instance, is not only a
knowledge of geographical facts, but also, and more fundamentally, the
power to see the relation of these facts to his own life; in other
words, the ability to apply his knowledge to the improvement of
adjustment. Now this power is very closely associated with the ability
to grasp fundamental principles, to see the relation of cause and effect
working below the surface of diverse phenomena. Geography, to be
practical, must impress not only the fact, but also the principle that
rationalizes or explains the fact. It must emphasize the "why" as well
as the "what." For example: it is well for the pupil to know that New
York is the largest city in the United States; it is better that he
should know why New York has become the largest city in the United
States. It is well to know that South America extends very much farther
to the east than does North America, but it is better to know that this
fact has had an important bearing in determining the commercial
relations that exist between South America and Europe. Questions that
have reference to these larger relations of cause and effect may be so
framed that no amount of "cramming" will alone insure correct answers.
They may be so framed that the pupil will be forced to do some thinking
for himself, will be forced to solve an imaginary situation very much as
he would solve a real situation.

Examination questions of this type would react beneficially upon the
methods of instruction. They would tend to place a premium upon that
type of instruction that develops initiative in solving problems,
instead of encouraging the memoriter methods that tend to crush whatever
germs of initiative the pupil may possess. This does not mean that the
memoriter work should be excluded. A solid basis of fact is essential to
the mastery of principles. Personally I believe that the work of the
intermediate grades should be planned to give the pupil this factual
basis. This would leave the upper grades free for the more rational
work. In any case, I believe that the efficiency of examinations may be
greatly increased by giving one or two questions that must be answered
by a reasoning process for every question that may be answered by verbal
memory alone.


Thus far it seems clear that an absolute standard is available for
testing the efficiency of training or habit building, and that a fairly
accurate standard may be developed for testing the efficiency of
instruction. Both training and instruction, however, are subject to the
modifying influence of a third factor of which too little account has
hitherto been taken in educational discussions. Training results in
habits, and yet a certain sort of training may not only result in a
certain type of habit, but it may also result in the development of
something which will quite negate the habit that has been developed. In
the process of developing habits of neatness, for example, one may
employ methods that result in prejudicing the child against neatness as
a general virtue. In this event, although the little specific habits of
neatness may function in the situations in which they have been
developed, the prejudice will effectually prevent their extension to
other fields. In other words, the general emotional effect of training
must be considered as well as the specific results of the training. The
same stricture applies with equal force to instruction. Instruction
imparts knowledge; but if a man knows and fails to feel, his knowledge
has little influence upon his conduct.

This factor that controls conduct when habit fails, this factor that may
even negate an otherwise efficient habit, is the great indeterminate in
the work of teaching. To know that one has trained an effective habit or
imparted a practical principle is one thing; to know that in doing this,
one has not engendered in the pupil's mind a prejudice against the very
thing taught is quite another matter.

That phase of teaching which is concerned with the development of these
intangible forces may be termed "inspiration"; and it is the lack of an
adequate test for the efficiency of inspiration that makes the task of
supervision so difficult and the results so often unsatisfactory.

Nevertheless, even here the outlook is not entirely hopeless. One may be
tolerably certain of at least two things. In the first place, the great
"emotionalized prejudices" that must come predominantly from school
influences are the love of truth, the love of work, respect for law and
order, and a spirit of coöperation. These factors undoubtedly have their
basis in specific habits of honesty, industry, obedience, and regard for
the rights and feelings of others; and these habits may be developed and
tested just as thoroughly and just as accurately as habits of good
spelling and correct syntax. Without the solid basis of habit, ideals
and prejudices will be of but little service. The one caution must be
taken that the methods of training do not defeat their own purpose by
engendering prejudices and ideals that negate the habits. It is here
that the personality of the teacher becomes the all-important factor,
and the task of the supervisor is to determine whether the influence of
the personality is good or evil. Most supervisors come to judge of this
influence by an undefined factor that is best termed the "spirit of the

The second hopeful feature of the task of supervision in respect of
inspiration is that this "spirit" is an extremely contagious and
pervasive thing. In other words, the principal or the superintendent may
dominate every classroom under his supervision, almost without regard to
the limitations of the individual teachers. Typical schools in every
city system bear compelling testimony to this fact. The principal _is_
the school.

And if I were to sum up the essential characteristics of the ideal
supervisor, I could not neglect this point. After all, the two great
dangers that beset him are, first, the danger of sloth--the old Adam of
laziness--which will tempt him to avoid the details, to shirk the
drudgery, to escape the close and wearisome scrutiny of little things;
and, secondly, the sin of triviality--the inertia which holds him to
details and never permits him to take the broader view and see the true
ends toward which details are but the means. The proper combination of
these two factors is all too rare, but it is in this combination that
the ideal supervisor is to be found.


[Footnote 10: A paper read before the fifty-second annual meeting of the
New York State Association of School Commissioners and Superintendents,
November 8, 1907.]




It is difficult not to be depressed by the irrational radicalism of
contemporary educational theory. It would seem that the workers in the
higher ranges of educational activity should, of all men, preserve a
balanced judgment and a sane outlook, and yet there is probably no other
human calling that presents the strange phenomenon of men who are called
experts throwing overboard everything that the past has sanctioned, and
embarking without chart or compass upon any new venture that happens to
catch popular fancy. The non-professional character of education is
nowhere more painfully apparent than in the expression of this tendency.
The literature of teaching that is written directly out of
experience--out of actual adjustment to the teaching situation--is
almost laughed out of court in some educational circles. But if one
wishes to win the applause of the multitude one may do it easily enough
by proclaiming some new and untried plan. At our educational gatherings
you notice above everything else a straining for spectacular and bizarre
effects. It is the novel that catches attention; and it sometimes seems
to me that those who know the least about the educational situation in
the way of direct contact often receive the largest share of attention
and have the largest influence.

It is in the attitude of the public and of a certain proportion of
school men toward elementary teaching and the elementary teacher that
this destructive criticism finds its most pronounced expression.
Throughout the length and breadth of the land, the efficiency of the
public school and the sincerity and intelligence of those who are giving
their lives to its work are being called into question. It is
discouraging to think that years of service in a calling do not qualify
one to speak authoritatively upon the problems of that calling, and
especially upon technique. And yet it is precisely upon that point of
technique that the criticisms of elementary education are most drastic.

Our educational system is sometimes branded as a failure, and yet this
same educational system with all its weaknesses has accomplished the
task of assimilating to American institutions and ideals and standards
the most heterogeneous infusion of alien stocks that ever went to the
making of a united people. The elementary teacher is criticized for all
the sins of omission that the calendar enumerates, and yet this same
elementary teacher is daily lifting millions of children to a plane of
civilization and culture that no other people in history have even
thought possible. I am willing to admit the deficiencies of American
education, but I also maintain that the teachers of our lower schools do
not deserve the opprobrium that has been heaped upon them. I believe
that in education, as in business, it would be a good thing if we saw
more of the doughnut and less of the hole. When I hear a prominent
educator say that we must discard everything that we have produced thus
far and begin anew in the realm of educational materials and methods, I
confess that I am discouraged, especially when that same authority is
extremely obscure as to the materials and methods that we should
substitute for those that we are now employing. I heard that statement
at a recent meeting of the Department of Superintendence, and I heard
other things of like tenor,--for example, that normal schools were
perpetuating types of skill in teaching that were unworthy of
perpetuation, that the observation of teaching was valueless in the
training of teachers because there was nothing that was being done at
the present time that was worthy of imitation, that practice teaching in
the training of young teachers is a farce, a delusion, and a snare.
Those very words were employed by one man of high position to express
his opinion of contemporary practices. You cannot pick up an educational
journal of the better sort, nor open a new educational book, without
being brought face to face with this destructive criticism.

I protest against this, not only in the name of justice, but in the name
of common sense. It cannot be possible that generations of dealing with
immature minds should have left no residuum of effective practice. The
very principle of progress by trial and error will inevitably mean that
certain practices that are possible and helpful and effective are
perpetuated, and that certain other processes that are ineffective and
wasteful are eliminated. To repudiate all this is the height of folly.
If the history of progress shows us anything, it shows us that progress
is not made by repudiating the lessons of experience. Theory is the last
word, not the first. Theory should explain: it should take successful
practice and find out what principles condition its efficiency; and if
these principles are inconsistent with those heretofore held, it is the
theory that should be modified to suit the facts, not the facts to suit
the theory.

My opponents may point to medicine as a possible example of the opposite
procedure. And yet if there is anything that the history of medical
science demonstrates, it is that the first cues to new discoveries were
made in the field of practice. Lymph therapy, which is one of the
triumphs of modern medicine, was discovered empirically. It was an
accident of practice, a blind procedure of trial and success that led to
Jenner's discovery of the virtues of vaccination. A century passed
before theory adequately explained the phenomenon, and opened the way to
those wider applications of the principle that have done so much to
reduce the ravages of disease.

The value of theory, I repeat, is to explain successful practice and to
generalize experience in broad and comprehensive principles which can be
easily held in mind, and from which inferences for further new and
effective practices may be derived. We have a small body of sound
principles in education to-day,--a body of principles that are
thoroughly consistent with successful practice. But the sort of
principles that are put forth as the last words of educational theory
are often far from sound. Personally I firmly believe that a vast amount
of damage is being done to children by the application of fallacious
principles which, because they emanate from high authority, obtain an
artificial validity in the minds of teachers in service.

I cannot understand why, when an educational experiment fails
lamentably, it is not rejected as a failure. And yet you and I know a
number of instances where certain educational experiments that have
undeniably reversed the hypotheses of those who initiated them are
excused on the ground that conditions were not favorable. That, it seems
to me, should tell the whole story, for precisely what we need in
educational practice is a body of doctrine that will work where
conditions _are_ unfavorable. We are told that the successful
application of mooted theories depends upon the proper kind of teachers.
I maintain that the most effective sort of theory is the sort that
brings results with such teachers as we must employ in our work. It
would be a poor recommendation for a theory of medicine to say that it
worked all right when people are healthy but failed to help the sick.
Nor is it true that good teachers can get good results by following bad
theory. They often obtain the results by evading the theory, and when
they live up to it, the results faithfully reflect the theory, no matter
how skillful the teaching.


Statements like these are very apt to be misconstrued or misinterpreted
unless one is very careful to define one's position; and, after what I
have said, I should do myself an injustice if I did not make certain
that my position is clear. I believe in experimentation in education. I
believe in experimental schools. But I should wish these schools to be
interpreted as experiments and not as models, and I should wish that the
failure of an experiment be accepted with good, scientific grace, and
not with the unscientific attitude of making excuses. The trouble with
an experimental school is that, in the eyes of the great mass of
teachers, it becomes a model school, and the principles that it
represents are applied _ad libitum_ by thousands of teachers who assume
that they have heard the last word in educational theory.

No one is more favorably disposed toward the rights of children than I
am, and yet I am thoroughly convinced that soft-heartedness accompanied
by soft-headedness is weakening the mental and moral fiber of hundreds
of thousands of boys and girls throughout this country. No one admires
more than I admire the sagacity and far-sightedness of Judge Lindsey,
and yet when Judge Lindsey's methods are proposed as models for school
government, I cannot lose sight, as so many people seem to lose sight,
of the contingent factor; namely, that Judge Lindsey's leniency is based
upon authority, and that if Judge Lindsey or anybody else attempted to
be lenient when he had no power to be otherwise than lenient, his
"bluff" would be called in short order. If you will give to teachers and
principals the same power that you give to the police judge, you may
well expect them to be lenient. The great trouble in the school is
simply this: that just in the proportion that leniency is demanded,
authority is taken away from the teacher.

And I should perhaps say a qualifying word with regard to my attitude
toward educational theory. I have every feeling of affection for the
science of psychology. I have every faith in the value of psychological
principles in the interpretation of educational phenomena. But I also
recognize that the science of psychology is a very young science, and
that its data are not yet so well organized that it is safe to draw from
them anything more than tentative hypotheses which must meet their final
test in the crucible of practice. Some day, if we work hard enough,
psychology will become a predictive science, just as mathematics and
physics and chemistry and, to a certain extent, biology, are predictive
sciences to-day. Meantime psychology is of inestimable value in giving
us a point of view, in clarifying our ideas, and in rationalizing the
truths that empirical practice discovers. A very few psychological
principles are strongly enough established even now to form the basis of
prediction. Among the most important of these are the laws of habit
building, some laws of memory, and the larger principles of attention.
Successful educational practice is and must be in accord with these
indisputable tenets. But the bane of education to-day is in the
pseudo-science, the "half-baked" psychology, that is lauded from the
house-tops by untrained enthusiasts, turned from the presses by
irresponsible publishing houses, and foisted upon the hungry teaching
public through the ever-present medium of the reading circle, the
teachers' institute, the summer school, and I am very sorry to admit
(for I think that I represent both institutions in a way) sometimes by
the normal schools and universities.

Most of the doctrines that are turning our practice topsy-turvy have
absolutely no support from competent psychologists. The doctrine of
spontaneity and its attendant _laissez-faire_ dogma of school government
is thoroughly inconsistent with good psychology. The radical extreme to
which some educators would push the doctrine of interest when they
maintain that the child should never be asked to do anything for which
he fails to find a need in his own life,--this doctrine can find no
support in good psychology. The doctrine that the preadolescent child
should understand thoroughly every process that he is expected to reduce
to habit before that process is made automatic is utterly at variance
with long-established principles which were well understood by the
Greeks and the Hebrews twenty-five hundred years ago, and to which
Mother Nature herself gives the lie in the instincts of imitation and
repetition. It is conceivable that these radical doctrines were
justified as means of reform, especially in secondary and higher
education, but, even granting this, their function is fulfilled when the
reform that they exploited has been accomplished. That time has come
and, as palpable untruths, they should either be modified to meet the
facts, or be relegated to oblivion.


It is safe to say that formalism is no longer a characteristic feature
of the typical American school. It is so long since I have heard any
rote learning in a schoolroom that I am wondering if it is not almost
time for some one to show that a little rote learning would not be at
all a bad thing in preadolescent education. We ridicule the memoriter
methods of Chinese education and yet we sometimes forget that Chinese
education has done something that no other system of education, however
well planned, has even begun to do in the same degree. It has kept the
Chinese empire a unit through a period of time compared with which the
entire history of Greece and Rome is but an episode. We may ridicule the
formalism of Hebrew education, and yet the schools of rabbis have
preserved intact the racial integrity of the Jewish people during the
two thousand years that have elapsed since their geographical unity was
destroyed. I am not justifying the methods of Chinese or Hebrew
education. I am quite willing to admit that, in China at any rate, the
game may not have been worth the candle; but I am still far from
convinced that it is not a good thing for children to reduce to verbal
form a good many things that are now never learned in such a way as to
make any lasting impression upon the memory; and our criticism of
oriental formalism is not so much concerned with the method of learning
as with the content of learning,--not so much with learning by heart as
with the character of the material that was thus memorized.

But, although formalism is no longer a distinctive feature of American
education, formalism is the point from which education is most
frequently attacked,--and this is the chief source of my dissatisfaction
with the present-day critics of our elementary schools. In a great many
cases, they have set up a man of straw and demolished him completely.
And in demolishing him, they have incidentally knocked the props from
under the feet of many a good teacher, leaving him dazed and uncertain
of his bearings, stung with the conviction that what he has been doing
for his pupils is entirely without value, that his life of service has
been a failure, that the lessons of his own experience are not to be
trusted, nor the verdicts of his own intelligence respected. Go to any
of the great summer schools and you will meet, among the attending
teachers, hundreds of faithful, conscientious men and women who could
tell you if they would (and some of them will) of the muddle in which
their minds are left after some of the lectures to which they have
listened. Why should they fail to be depressed? The whole weight of
academic authority seems to be against them. The entire machinery of
educational administration is wheeling them with relentless force into
paths that seem to them hopelessly intricate and bewildering. If it is
true, as I think it is, that some of the proposals of modern education
are an attempt to square the circle, it is certainly true that the
classroom teacher is standing at the pressure points in this procedure.

We hear expressed on every side a great deal of sympathy for the child
as the victim of our educational system. Sympathy for childhood is the
most natural thing in the world. It is one of the basic human instincts,
and its expressions are among the finest things in human life. But why
limit our sympathy to the child, especially to-day when he is about as
happy and as fortunate an individual as anybody has ever been in all
history. Why not let a little of it go out to the teacher of this child?
Why not plan a little for her comfort and welfare and encouragement? It
is her skill that is assimilating the children of our alien population.
It is her strength that is lifting bodily each generation to the
ever-advancing race levels. Her work must be the main source of the
inspiration that will impel the race to further advancement. And yet
when these half-million teachers who mean so much to this country gather
at their institutes, when they attend the summer schools, when they take
up their professional journals, what do they hear and read? Criticisms
of their work. Denunciations of their methods. Serious doubts of their
intelligence. Aspersions cast upon their sincerity, their patience, and
their loyalty to their superiors. This, mingled with some mawkish
sentimentalism that passes under the name of inspiration. Only
occasionally a word of downright commendation, a sign of honest and
heartfelt appreciation, a note of sympathy or encouragement.

Carnegie gives fifteen million dollars to provide pensions for
superannuated college professors; but the elementary teacher who is not
fortunate enough to die in harness must look forward to the almshouse.
The people tax themselves for magnificent buildings and luxurious
furnishings, but not one cent do they offer for teachers' pensions.
What a blot upon Western civilization is this treatment of the teachers
in our lower schools. These people are doing the work that even the
savage races universally consider to be of the highest type. Benighted
China places her teachers second only to the literati themselves in the
place of honor. The Hindus made the teaching profession the highest
caste in the social scale. The Jews intrusted the education of their
children to their Rabbis, the most learned and the most honored of their
race. It is only Western civilization--it is almost only our much-lauded
Anglo-Saxon civilization--that denies to the teacher a station in life
befitting his importance as a social servant.


But what has all this to do with school supervision? As I view it, the
supervisor of schools as the overseer and director of the educational
process, is just now confronted with two great problems. The first of
these is to keep a clear head in the present muddled condition of
educational theory. From the very fact of his position, the supervisor
must be a leader, whether he will or not. It is a maxim of our
profession that the principal is the school. In our city systems the
supervising principal is given almost absolute authority over the school
of which he has charge. In him is vested the ultimate responsibility for
instruction, for discipline, for the care and condition of the material
property. He may be a despot if he wishes, benevolent or otherwise.
With this power goes a corresponding opportunity. His school can stand
for something,--perhaps for something new and strange which will bring
him into the limelight to-day, no matter what its character; perhaps for
something solid and enduring, something that will last long after his
own name has been forgotten. The temptation was never so strong as it is
to-day for the supervisor to seek the former kind of glory. The need was
never more acute than it is to-day for the supervisor who is content
with the impersonal glory of the latter type.

I admit that it is a somewhat thankless task to do things in a
straightforward, effective way, without fuss or feathers, and I suppose
that the applause of the gallery may be easily mistaken for the applause
of the pit. But nevertheless the seeker for notoriety is doing the cause
of education a vast amount of harm. I know a principal who won ephemeral
fame by introducing into his school a form of the Japanese jiu-jitsu
physical exercises. When I visited that school, I was led to believe
that jiu-jitsu would be the salvation of the American people. Whole
classes of girls and boys were marched to the large basement to be put
through their paces for the delectation of visitors. The newspapers took
it up and heralded it as another indication that the formalism of the
public school was gradually breaking down. Visitors came by the
hundreds, and my friend basked in the limelight of public adulation
while his colleagues turned green with envy and set themselves to
devising some means for turning attention in their direction.

And yet, there are some principals who move on in the even tenor of
their ways, year after year, while all these currents and
countercurrents are seething and eddying around them. They hold fast to
that which they know is good until that which they know is better can be
found. They believe in the things that they do, so the chances are
greatly increased that they will do them well. They refuse to be bullied
or sneered at or laughed out of court because they do not take up with
every fancy that catches the popular mind. They have their own
professional standards as to what constitutes competent
schoolmanship,--their own standards gained from their own specialized
experience. And somehow I cannot help thinking that just now that is the
type of supervisor that we need and the type that ought to be
encouraged. If I were talking to Chinese teachers, I might preach
another sort of gospel, but American education to-day needs less
turmoil, less distraction, fewer sweeping changes. It needs to settle
itself, and look around, and find out where it is and what it is trying
to do. And it needs, above all, to rise to a consciousness of itself as
an institution manned by intelligent individuals who are perfectly
competent themselves to set up craft standard and ideals.

   [Transcriber's note: This is a typographical error in
   the original, and should read "V"]

But in whatever way the supervisor may utilize the opportunity that his
position presents, his second great problem will come up for solution.
The supervisor is the captain of the teaching corps. Directly under his
control are the mainsprings of the school's life and activity,--the
classroom teachers. It is coming to be a maxim in the city systems that
the supervisor has not only the power to mold the school to the form of
his own ideals, but that he can, if he is skillful, turn weak teachers
into strong teachers and make out of most unpromising material, an
efficient, homogeneous school staff. I believe that this is coming to be
considered the prime criterion of effective school supervision,--not
what skill the supervisor may show in testing results, or in keeping his
pupils up to a given standard, or in choosing his teachers skillfully,
but rather the success with which he is able to take the teaching
material that is at his hand, and train it into efficiency.

A former Commissioner of Education for one of our new insular
possessions once told me that he had come to divide supervisors into two
classes,--(1) those who knew good teaching when they saw it, and (2)
those who could make poor teachers into good teachers. Of these two
types, he said, the latter were infinitely more valuable to pioneer work
in education than the former, and he named two or three city systems
from which he had selected the supervisors who could do this sort of
thing,--for there is no limit to this process of training, and the
superintendent who can train supervisors is just as important as the
supervisor who can train teachers.

It would take a volume adequately to treat the various problems that
this conception of the supervisor's function involves. I can do no more
at present than indicate what seems to me the most pressing present need
in this direction. I have found that sometimes the supervisors who
insist most strenuously that their teachers secure the coöperation of
their pupils are among the very last to secure for themselves the
coöperation of their teachers.

And to this important end, it seems to me that we have an important
suggestion in the present condition of the classroom teacher as I have
attempted to describe it. As a type, the classroom teacher needs just
now some adequate appreciation and recognition of the work that she is
doing. If the lay public is unable adequately to judge the teacher's
work, there is all the more reason that she should look to her
supervisor for that recognition of technical skill, for that
commendation of good work, which can come only from a fellow-craftsman,
but which, when it does come, is worth more in the way of real
inspiration than the loudest applause of the crowd.

Upon the whole, I believe that the outlook in this direction is
encouraging. While the teacher may miss in her institutes and in the
summer school that sort of encouragement, she is, I believe, finding it
in larger and larger measure in the local teachers' meetings and in her
consultations with her supervisors. And when all has been said, that is
the place from which she should look for inspiration. The teachers'
meeting must be the nursery of professional ideals. It must be a place
where the real first-hand workers in education get that sanity of
outlook, that professional point of view, which shall fortify them
effectively against the rising tide of unprofessional interference and
dictation which, as I have tried to indicate, constitutes the most
serious menace to our educational welfare.

And it is in the encouragement of this craft spirit, in this lifting of
the teacher's calling to the plane of craft consciousness, it is in this
that the supervisor must, I believe, find the true and lasting reward
for his work. It is through this factor that he can, just now, work the
greatest good for the schools that he supervises and the community that
he serves. The most effective way to reach his pupils is through the
medium of their teachers, and he can help these pupils in no better way
than to give their teachers a justifiable pride in the work that they
are doing through his own recognition of its worth and its value,
through his own respect for the significance of the lessons that
experience teaches them, through his own suggestive help in making that
experience profitable and suggestive. And just at the present moment, he
can make no better start than by assuring them of the truth that Emerson
expresses when he defines the true scholar as the man who remains firm
in his belief that a popgun is only a popgun although the ancient and
honored of earth may solemnly affirm it to be the crack of doom.




I wish to discuss with you some phases of the problem that is perhaps
foremost in the minds of the teaching public to-day: the problem,
namely, of making education bear more directly and more effectively upon
the work of practical, everyday life. I have no doubt that some of you
feel, when this problem is suggested, very much as I felt when I first
suggested to myself the possibility of discussing it with you. You have
doubtless heard some phases of this problem discussed at every meeting
of this association for the past ten years--if you have been a member so
long as that. Certain it is that we all grow weary of the reiteration of
even the best of truths, but certain it is also that some problems are
always before us, and until they are solved satisfactorily they will
always stimulate men to devise means for their solution.

I should say at the outset, however, that I shall not attempt to justify
to this audience the introduction of vocational subjects into the
elementary and secondary curriculums. I shall take it for granted that
you have already made up your minds upon this matter. I shall not take
your time in an attempt to persuade you that agriculture ought to be
taught in the rural schools, or manual training and domestic science in
all schools. I am personally convinced of the value of such work and I
shall take it for granted that you are likewise convinced.

My task to-day, then, is of another type. I wish to discuss with you
some of the implications of this matter of utility in respect of the
work that every elementary school is doing and always must do, no matter
how much hand work or vocational material it may introduce. My problem,
in other words, concerns the ordinary subject-matter of the
curriculum,--reading and writing and arithmetic, geography and grammar
and history,--those things which, like the poor, are always with us, but
which we seem a little ashamed to talk about in public. Truly, from
reading the educational journals and hearing educational discussion
to-day, the layman might well infer that what we term the "useful"
education and the education that is now offered by the average school
are as far apart as the two poles. We are all familiar with the
statement that the elementary curriculum is eminently adapted to produce
clerks and accountants, but very poorly adapted to furnish recruits for
any other department of life. The high school is criticized on the
ground that it prepares for college and consequently for the
professions, but that it is totally inadequate to the needs of the
average citizen. Now it would be futile to deny that there is some truth
in both these assertions, but I do not hesitate to affirm that both are
grossly exaggerated, and that the curriculum of to-day, with all its
imperfections, does not justify so sweeping a denunciation. I wish to
point out some of the respects in which these charges are fallacious,
and, in so doing, perhaps, to suggest some possible remedies for the
defects that every one will acknowledge.


In the first place, let me make myself perfectly clear upon what I mean
by the word "useful." What, after all, is the "useful" study in our
schools? What do men find to be the useful thing in their lives? The
most natural answer to this question is that the useful things are those
that enable us to meet effectively the conditions of life,--or, to use a
phrase that is perfectly clear to us all, the things that help us in
getting a living. The vast majority of men and women in this world
measure all values by this standard, for most of us are, to use the
expressive slang of the day, "up against" this problem, and "up against"
it so hard and so constantly that we interpret everything in the greatly
foreshortened perspective of immediate necessity. Most of us in this
room are confronting this problem of making a living. At any rate, I am
confronting it, and consequently I may lay claim to some of the
authority that comes from experience.

And since I have made this personal reference, may I violate the canons
of good taste and make still another? I was face to face with this
problem of getting a living a good many years ago, when the opportunity
came to me to take a college course. I could see nothing ahead after
that except another struggle with this same vital issue. So I decided to
take a college course which would, in all probability, help me to solve
the problem. Scientific agriculture was not developed in those days as
it has been since that time, but a start had been made, and the various
agricultural colleges were offering what seemed to be very practical
courses. I had had some early experience on the farm, and I decided to
become a scientific farmer. I took the course of four years and secured
my degree. The course was as useful from the standpoint of practical
agriculture as any that could have been devised at the time. But when I
graduated, what did I find? The same old problem of getting a living
still confronted me as I had expected that it would; and alas! I had got
my education in a profession that demanded capital. I was a landless
farmer. Times were hard and work of all kinds was very scarce. The
farmers of those days were inclined to scoff at scientific agriculture.
I could have worked for my board and a little more, and I should have
done so had I been able to find a job. But while I was looking for the
place, a chance came to teach school, and I took the opportunity as a
means of keeping the wolf from the door. I have been engaged in the work
of teaching ever since. When I was able to buy land, I did so, and I
have to-day a farm of which I am very proud. It does not pay large
dividends, but I keep it up for the fun I get out of it,--and I like to
think, also, that if I should lose my job as a teacher, I could go back
to the farm and show the natives how to make money. This is doubtless an
illusion, but it is a source of solid comfort just the same.

Now the point of this experience is simply this: I secured an education
that seemed to me to promise the acme of utility. In one way, it has
fulfilled that promise far beyond my wildest expectations, but that way
was very different from the one that I had anticipated. The technical
knowledge that I gained during those four strenuous years, I apply now
only as a means of recreation. So far as enabling me directly to get a
living, this technical knowledge does not pay one per cent on the
investment of time and money. And yet I count the training that I got
from its mastery as, perhaps, the most useful product of my education.

Now what was the secret of its utility? As I analyze my experience, I
find it summed up very largely in two factors. In the first place, I
studied a set of subjects for which I had at the outset very little
taste. In studying agriculture, I had to master a certain amount of
chemistry, physics, botany, and zoölogy, for each and every one of which
I felt, at the outset, a distinct aversion and dislike. A mastery of
these subjects was essential to a realization of the purpose that I had
in mind. I was sure that I should never like them, and yet, as I kept at
work, I gradually found myself losing that initial distaste. First one
and then another opened out its vista of truth and revelation before me,
and almost before I was aware of it, I was enthusiastic over science. It
was a long time before I generalized that experience and drew its
lesson, but the lesson, once learned, has helped me more even in the
specific task of getting a living than anything else that came out of my
school training. That experience taught me, not only the necessity for
doing disagreeable tasks,--for attacking them hopefully and
cheerfully,--but it also taught me that disagreeable tasks, if attacked
in the right way, and persisted in with patience, often become
attractive in themselves. Over and over again in meeting the situations
of real life, I have been confronted with tasks that were initially
distasteful. Sometimes I have surrendered before them; but sometimes,
too, that lesson has come back to me, and has inspired me to struggle
on, and at no time has it disappointed me by the outcome. I repeat that
there is no technical knowledge that I have gained that compares for a
moment with that ideal of patience and persistence. When it comes to
real, downright utility, measured by this inexorable standard of getting
a living, let me commend to you the ideal of persistent effort. All the
knowledge that we can learn or teach will come to very little if this
element is lacking.

Now this is very far from saying that the pursuit of really useful
knowledge may not give this ideal just as effectively as the pursuit of
knowledge that will never be used. My point is simply this: that beyond
the immediate utility of the facts that we teach,--indeed, basic and
fundamental to this utility,--is the utility of the ideals and standards
that are derived from our school work. Whatever we teach, these
essential factors can be made to stand out in our work, and if our
pupils acquire these we shall have done the basic and important thing in
helping them to solve the problems of real life,--and if our pupils do
not acquire these, it will make little difference how intrinsically
valuable may be the content of our instruction. I feel like emphasizing
this matter to-day, because there is in the air a notion that utility
depends entirely upon the content of the curriculum. Certainly the
curriculum must be improved from this standpoint, but we are just now
losing sight of the other equally important factor,--that, after all,
while both are essential, it is the spirit of teaching rather than the
content of teaching that is basic and fundamental.

Nor have I much sympathy with that extreme view of this matter which
asserts that we must go out of our way to provide distasteful tasks for
the pupil in order to develop this ideal of persistence. I believe that
such a policy will always tend to defeat its own purpose. I know a
teacher who holds this belief. He goes out of his way to make tasks
difficult. He refuses to help pupils over hard places. He does not
believe in careful assignments of lessons, because, he maintains, the
pupil ought to learn to overcome difficulties for himself, and how can
he learn unless real difficulties are presented?

The great trouble with this teacher is that his policy does not work out
in practice. A small minority of his pupils are strengthened by it; the
majority are weakened. He is right when he says that a pupil gains
strength only by overcoming difficulties, but he neglects a very
important qualification of this rule, namely, that a pupil gains no
strength out of obstacles that he fails to overcome. It is the conquest
that comes after effort,--this is the factor that gives one strength and
confidence. But when defeat follows defeat and failure follows failure,
it is weakness that is being engendered--not strength. And that is the
trouble with this teacher's pupils. The majority leave him with all
confidence in their own ability shaken out of them and some of them
never recover from the experience.

And so while I insist strenuously that the most useful lesson we can
teach our pupils is how to do disagreeable tasks cheerfully and
willingly, please do not understand me to mean that we should go out of
our way to provide disagreeable tasks. After all, I rejoice that my own
children are learning how to read and write and cipher much more easily,
much more quickly, and withal much more pleasantly than I learned those
useful arts. The more quickly they get to the plane that their elders
have reached, the more quickly they can get beyond this plane and on to
the next level.

To argue against improved methods in teaching on the ground that they
make things too easy for the pupil is, to my mind, a grievous error. It
is as fallacious as to argue that the introduction of machinery is a
curse because it has diminished in some measure the necessity for human
drudgery. But if machinery left mankind to rest upon its oars, if it
discouraged further progress and further effortful achievement, it
_would_ be a curse: and if the easier and quicker methods of instruction
simply bring my children to my own level and then fail to stimulate them
to get beyond my level, then they are a curse and not a blessing.

I do not decry that educational policy of to-day which insists that
school work should be made as simple and attractive as possible. I do
decry that misinterpretation of this policy which looks at the matter
from the other side, and asserts so vehemently that the child should
never be asked or urged to do something that is not easy and attractive.
It is only because there is so much in the world to be done that, for
the sake of economizing time and strength, we should raise the child as
quickly and as rapidly and as pleasantly as possible to the plane that
the race has reached. But among all the lessons of race experience that
we must teach him there is none so fundamental and important as the
lesson of achievement itself,--the supreme lesson wrung from human
experience,--the lesson, namely, that every advance that the world has
made, every step that it has taken forward, every increment that has
been added to the sum total of progress has been attained at the price
of self-sacrifice and effort and struggle,--at the price of doing things
that one does not want to do. And unless a man is willing to pay that
price, he is bound to be the worst kind of a social parasite, for he is
simply living on the experience of others, and adding to this capital
nothing of his own.

It is sometimes said that universal education is essential in order that
the great mass of humanity may live in greater comfort and enjoy the
luxuries that in the past have been vouchsafed only to the few.
Personally I think that this is all right so far as it goes, but it
fails to reach an ultimate goal. Material comfort is justified only
because it enables mankind to live more effectively on the lower planes
of life and give greater strength and greater energy to the solution of
new problems upon the higher planes of life. The end of life can never
be adequately formulated in terms of comfort and ease, nor even in
terms of culture and intellectual enjoyment; the end of life is
achievement, and no matter how far we go, achievement is possible only
to those who are willing to pay the price. When the race stops investing
its capital of experience in further achievement, when it settles down
to take life easily, it will not take it very long to eat up its capital
and revert to the plane of the brute.


But I am getting away, from my text. You will remember that I said that
the most useful thing that we can teach the child is to attack
strenuously and resolutely any problem that confronts him whether it
pleases him or not, and I wanted to be certain that you did not
misinterpret me to mean that we should, for this reason, make our school
tasks unnecessarily difficult and laborious. After all, while our
attitude should always be one of interesting our pupils, their attitude
should always be one of effortful attention,--of willingness to do the
task that we think it best for them to do. You see it is a sort of a
double-headed policy, and how to carry it out is a perplexing problem.
Of so much I am certain, however, at the outset: if the pupil takes the
attitude that we are there to interest and entertain him, we shall make
a sorry fiasco of the whole matter, and inasmuch as this very tendency
is in the air at the present time, I feel justified in at least
referring to its danger.

Now if this ideal of persistent effort is the most useful thing that
can come out of education, what is the next most useful? Again, as I
analyze what I obtained from my own education, it seems to me that, next
to learning that disagreeable tasks are often well worth doing, the
factor that has helped me most in getting a living has been the method
of solving the situations that confronted me. After all, if we simply
have the ideal of resolute and aggressive and persistent attack, we may
struggle indefinitely without much result. All problems of life involve
certain common factors. The essential difference between the educated
and the uneducated man, if we grant each an equal measure of pluck,
persistence, and endurance, lies in the superior ability of the educated
man to analyze his problem effectively and to proceed intelligently
rather than blindly to its solution. I maintain that education should
give a man this ideal of attacking any problem; furthermore I maintain
that the education of the present day, in spite of the anathemas that
are hurled against it, is doing this in richer measure than it has ever
been done before. But there is no reason why we should not do it in
still greater measure.

I once knew two men who were in the business of raising fruit for
commercial purposes. Each had a large orchard which he operated
according to conventional methods and which netted him a comfortable
income. One of these men was a man of narrow education: the other a man
of liberal education, although his training had not been directed in
any way toward the problems of horticulture. The orchards had borne
exceptionally well for several years, but one season, when the fruit
looked especially promising, a period of wet, muggy weather came along
just before the picking season, and one morning both these men went out
into their orchards, to find the fruit very badly "specked." Now the
conventional thing to do in such cases was well known to both men. Each
had picked up a good deal of technical information about caring for
fruit, and each did the same thing in meeting this situation. He got out
his spraying outfit, prepared some Bordeaux mixture, and set vigorously
at work with his pumps. So far as persistence and enterprise went, both
men stood on an equal footing. But it happened that this was an unusual
and not a conventional situation. The spraying did not alleviate the
condition. The corruption spread through the trees like wildfire, and
seemed to thrive on copper sulphate rather than succumb to its corrosive

Now this was where the difference in training showed itself. The
orchardist who worked by rule of thumb, when he found that his rule did
not work, gave up the fight and spent his time sitting on his front
porch bemoaning his luck. The other set diligently at work to analyze
the situation. His education had not taught him anything about the
characteristics of parasitic fungi, for parasitic fungi were not very
well understood when he was in school. But his education had left with
him a general method of procedure for just such cases, and that method
he at once applied. It had taught him how to find the information that
he needed, provided that such information was available. It had taught
him that human experience is crystallized in books, and that, when a
discovery is made in any field of science,--no matter how specialized
the field and no matter how trivial the finding,--the discovery is
recorded in printer's ink and placed at the disposal of those who have
the intelligence to find it and apply it. And so he set out to read up
on the subject,--to see what other men had learned about this peculiar
kind of apple rot. He obtained all that had been written about it and
began to master it. He told his friend about this material and suggested
that the latter follow the same course, but the man of narrow education
soon found himself utterly at sea in a maze of technical terms. The
terms were new to the other too, but he took down his dictionary and
worked them out. He knew how to use indices and tables of contents and
various other devices that facilitate the gathering of information, and
while his uneducated friend was storming over the pedantry of men who
use big words, the other was making rapid progress through the material.
In a short time he learned everything that had been found out about this
specific disease. He learned that its spores are encased in a gelatinous
sac which resisted the entrance of the chemicals. He found how the
spores were reproduced, how they wintered, how they germinated in the
following season; and, although he did not save much of his crop that
year, he did better the next. Nor were the evidences of his superiority
limited to this very useful result. He found that, after all, very
little was known about this disease, so he set himself to find out more
about it. To do this, he started where other investigators had left off,
and then he applied a principle he had learned from his education;
namely, that the only valid methods of obtaining new truths are the
methods of close observation and controlled experiment.

Now I maintain that the education which was given that man was effective
in a degree that ought to make his experience an object lesson for us
who teach. What he had found most useful at a very critical juncture of
his business life was, primarily, not the technical knowledge that he
had gained either in school or in actual experience. His superiority lay
in the fact that he knew how to get hold of knowledge when he needed it,
how to master it once he had obtained it, how to apply it once he had
mastered it, and finally how to go about to discover facts that had been
undetected by previous investigators. I care not whether he got this
knowledge in the elementary school or in the high school or in the
college. He might have secured it in any one of the three types of
institution, but he had to learn it somewhere, and I shall go further
and say that the average man has to learn it in some school and under an
explicit and conscious method of instruction.


But perhaps you would maintain that this statement of the case, while in
general true, does not help us out in practice. After all, how are we to
impress pupils with this ideal of persistence and with these ideals of
getting and applying information, and with this ideal of investigation?
I maintain that these important useful ideals may be effectively
impressed almost from the very outset of school life. The teaching of
every subject affords innumerable opportunities to force home their
lessons. In fact, it must be a very gradual process--a process in which
the concrete instances are numerous and rich and impressive. From these
concrete instances, the general truth may in time emerge. Certainly the
chances that it will emerge are greatly multiplied if we ourselves
recognize its worth and importance, and lead our pupils to see in each
concrete case the operation of the general principle. After all, the
chief reason why so much of our education miscarries, why so few pupils
gain the strength and the power that we expect all to gain, lies in the
inability of the average individual to draw a general conclusion from
concrete cases--to see the general in the particular. We have insisted
so strenuously upon concrete instruction that we have perhaps failed
also to insist that fact without law is blind, and that observation
without induction is stupidity gone to seed.

Let me give a concrete instance of what I mean. Not long ago, I visited
an eighth-grade class during a geography period. It was at the time when
the discovery of the Pole had just set the whole civilized world by the
ears, and the teacher was doing something that many good teachers do on
occasions of this sort: she was turning the vivid interest of the moment
to educative purposes. The pupils had read Peary's account of his trip
and they were discussing its details in class. Now that exercise was
vastly more than an interesting information lesson, for Peary's
achievement became, under the skillful touch of that teacher, a type of
all human achievement. I wish that I could reproduce that lesson for
you--how vividly she pictured the situation that confronted the
explorer,--the bitter cold, the shifting ice, the treacherous open
leads, the lack of game or other sources of food supply, the long
marches on scant rations, the short hours and the uncomfortable
conditions of sleep; and how from these that fundamental lesson of pluck
and endurance and courage came forth naturally without preaching the
moral or indulging in sentimental "goody-goodyism." And then the other
and equally important part of the lesson,--how pluck and courage in
themselves could never have solved the problem; how knowledge was
essential, and how that knowledge had been gained: some of it from the
experience of early explorers,--how to avoid the dreaded scurvy, how to
build a ship that could withstand the tremendous pressure of the floes;
and some from the Eskimos,--how to live in that barren region, and how
to travel with dogs and sledges;--and some, too, from Peary's own early
experiences,--how he had struggled for twenty years to reach the goal,
and had added this experience to that until finally the prize was his.
We may differ as to the value of Peary's deed, but that it stands as a
type of what success in any undertaking means, no one can deny. And this
was the lesson that these eighth-grade pupils were absorbing,--the
world-old lesson before which all others fade into insignificance,--the
lesson, namely, that achievement can be gained only by those who are
willing to pay the price.

And I imagine that when that class is studying the continent of Africa
in their geography work, they will learn something more than the names
of rivers and mountains and boundaries and products,--I imagine that
they will link these facts with the names and deeds of the men who gave
them to the world. And when they study history, it will be vastly more
than a bare recital of dates and events,--it will be alive with these
great lessons of struggle and triumph,--for history, after all, is only
the record of human achievement. And if those pupils do not find these
same lessons coming out of their own little conquests,--if the problems
of arithmetic do not furnish an opportunity to conquer the pressure
ridges of partial payments or the Polar night of bank discount, or if
the intricacies of formal grammar do not resolve themselves into the
North Pole of correct expression,--I have misjudged that teacher's
capacities; for the great triumph of teaching is to get our pupils to
see the fundamental and the eternal in things that are seemingly trivial
and transitory. We are fond of dividing school studies into the cultural
and the practical, into the humanities and the sciences. Believe me,
there is no study worth the teaching that is not practical at basis, and
there is no practical study that has not its human interest and its
humanizing influence--if only we go to some pains to search them out.


I have said that the most useful thing that education can do is to imbue
the pupil with the ideal of effortful achievement which will lead him to
do cheerfully and effectively the disagreeable tasks that fall to his
lot. I have said that the next most useful thing that it can do is to
give him a general method of solving the problems that he meets. Is
there any other useful outcome of a general nature that we may rank in
importance with these two? I believe that there is, and I can perhaps
tell you what I mean by another reference to a concrete case. I know a
man who lacks this third factor, although he possesses the other two in
a very generous measure. He is full of ambition, persistence, and
courage. He is master of the rational method of solving the problems
that beset him. He does his work intelligently and effectively. And yet
he has failed to make a good living. Why? Simply because of his standard
of what constitutes a good living. Measured by my standard, he is doing
excellently well. Measured by his own standard, he is a miserable
failure. He is depressed and gloomy and out of harmony with the world,
simply because he has no other standard for a good living than a
financial one. He is by profession a civil engineer. His work is much
more remunerative than is that of many other callings. He has it in him
to attain to professional distinction in that work. But to this
opportunity he is blind. In the great industrial center in which he
works, he is constantly irritated by the evidences of wealth and luxury
beyond what he himself enjoys. The millionaire captain of industry is
his hero, and because he is not numbered among this class, he looks at
the world through the bluest kind of spectacles.

Now, to my mind that man's education failed somewhere, and its failure
lay in the fact that it did not develop in him ideals of success that
would have made him immune to these irritating factors. We have often
heard it said that education should rid the mind of the incubus of
superstition, and one very important effect of universal education is
that it does offer to all men an explanation of the phenomena that
formerly weighted down the mind with fear and dread, and opened an easy
ingress to the forces of superstition and fraud and error. Education has
accomplished this function, I think, passably well with respect to the
more obvious sources of superstition. Necromancy and magic, demonism and
witchcraft, have long since been relegated to the limbo of exposed
fraud. Their conquest has been one of the most significant advances that
man has made above the savage. The truths of science have at last
triumphed, and, as education has diffused these truths among the masses,
the triumph has become almost universal.

But there are other forms of superstition besides those I have
mentioned,--other instances of a false perspective, of distorted values,
of inadequate standards. If belief in witchcraft or in magic is bad
because it falls short of an adequate interpretation of nature,--if it
is false because it is inconsistent with human experience,--then the
worship of Mammon that my engineer friend represents is tenfold worse
than witchcraft, measured by the same standards. If there is any lesson
that human history teaches with compelling force, it is surely this:
Every race which has yielded to the demon of individualism and the lust
for gold and self-gratification has gone down the swift and certain road
to national decay. Every race that, through unusual material prosperity,
has lost its grip on the eternal verities of self-sacrifice and
self-denial has left the lesson of its downfall written large upon the
pages of history. I repeat that if superstition consists in believing
something that is inconsistent with rational human experience, then our
present worship of the golden calf is by far the most dangerous form of
superstition that has ever befuddled the human intellect.

But, you ask, what can education do to alleviate a condition of this
sort? How may the weak influence of the school make itself felt in an
environment that has crystallized on every hand this unfortunate
standard? Individualism is in the air. It is the dominant spirit of the
times. It is reënforced upon every side by the unmistakable evidences of
national prosperity. It is easy to preach the simple life, but who will
live it unless he has to? It is easy to say that man should have social
and not individual standards of success and achievement, but what effect
will your puerile assertion have upon the situation that confronts us?

Yes; it is easier to be a pessimist than an optimist. It is far easier
to lie back and let things run their course than it is to strike out
into midstream and make what must be for the pioneer a fatal effort to
stem the current. But is the situation absolutely hopeless? If the
forces of education can lift the Japanese people from barbarism to
enlightenment in two generations; if education can in a single century
transform Germany from the weakest to the strongest power on the
continent of Europe; if five short years of a certain type of education
can change the course of destiny in China;--are we warranted in our
assumption that we hold a weak weapon in this fight against Mammon?

I have intimated that the attitude of my engineer friend toward life is
the result of twisted ideals. A good many young men are going out into
life with a similar defect in their education. They gain their ideals,
not from the great wellsprings of human experience as represented in
history and literature, in religion and art, but from the environment
around them, and consequently they become victims of this superstition
from the outset. As a trainer of teachers, I hold it to be one important
part of my duty to fortify my students as strongly as I can against this
false standard of which my engineer friend is the victim. It is just as
much a part of my duty to give my students effective and consistent
standards of what a good living consists in as it is to give them the
technical knowledge and skill that will enable them to make a good
living. If my students who are to become teachers have standards of
living and standards of success that are inconsistent with the great
ideal of social service for which teaching stands, then I have fallen
far short of success in my work. If they are constantly irritated by the
evidences of luxury beyond their means, if this irritation sours their
dispositions and checks their spontaneity, their efficiency as teachers
is greatly lessened or perhaps entirely negated. And if my engineer
friend places worldly emoluments upon a higher plane than professional
efficiency, I dread for the safety of the bridges that he builds. His
education as an engineer should have fortified him against just such a
contingency. It should have left him with the ideal of craftsmanship
supreme in his life. And if his technical education failed to do this,
his general education ought, at least, to have given him a bias in the
right direction.

I believe that all forms of vocational and professional education are
not so strong in this respect as they should be. Again you say to me,
What can education do when the spirit of the times speaks so strongly on
the other side? But what is education for if it is not to preserve midst
the chaos and confusion of troublous times the great truths that the
race has wrung from its experience? How different might have been the
fate of Rome, if Rome had possessed an educational system touching every
child in the Empire, and if, during the years that witnessed her decay
and downfall, those schools could have kept steadily, persistently at
work, impressing upon every member of each successive generation the
virtues that made the old Romans strong and virile--the virtues that
enabled them to lay the foundations of an empire that crumbled in ruins
once these truths were forgotten. Is it not the specific task of
education to represent in each generation the human experiences that
have been tried and tested and found to work,--to represent these in the
face of opposition if need be,--to be faithful to the trusteeship of the
most priceless legacy that the past has left to the present and to the
future? If this is not our function in the scheme of things, then what
is our function? Is it to stand with bated breath to catch the first
whisper that will usher in the next change? Is it to surrender all
initiative and simply allow ourselves to be tossed hither and yon by the
waves and cross-waves of a fickle public opinion? Is it to cower in
dread of a criticism that is not only unjust but often ill-advised of
the real conditions under which we are doing our work?

I take it that none of us is ready to answer these questions in the
affirmative. Deep down in our hearts we know that we have a useful work
to do, and we know that we are doing it passably well. We also know our
defects and shortcomings at least as well as one who has never faced our
problems and tried to solve them. And it is from this latter type that
most of the drastic criticism, especially of the elementary and
secondary school, emanates. I confess that my gorge rises within me when
I read or hear the invectives that are being hurled against teaching as
a profession (and against the work of the elementary and secondary
school in particular) by men who know nothing of this work at first
hand. This is the greatest handicap under which the profession of
teaching labors. In every other important field of human activity a man
must present his credentials before he takes his seat at the council
table, and even then he must sit and listen respectfully to his elders
for a while before he ventures a criticism or even a suggestion. This
plan may have its defects. It may keep things on too conservative a
basis; but it avoids the danger into which we as a profession have
fallen,--the danger of "half-baked" theories and unmatured policies.
To-day the only man that can get a respectable hearing at our great
national educational meetings is the man who has something new and
bizarre to propose. And the more startling the proposal, the greater is
the measure of adulation that he receives. The result of this is a
continual straining for effect, an enormous annual crop of fads and
fancies, which, though most of them are happily short-lived, keep us in
a state of continual turmoil and confusion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, it goes without saying that there are many ways of making education
hit the mark of utility in addition to those that I have mentioned. The
teachers down in the lower grades who are teaching little children the
arts of reading and writing and computation are doing vastly more in a
practical direction than they are ever given credit for doing; for
reading and writing and the manipulation of numbers are, next to oral
speech itself, the prime necessities in the social and industrial world.
These arts are being taught to-day better than they have ever been
taught before,--and the technique of their teaching is undergoing
constant refinement and improvement.

The school can do and is doing other useful things. Some schools are
training their pupils to be well mannered and courteous and considerate
of the rights of others. They are teaching children one of the most
basic and fundamental laws of human life; namely, that there are some
things that a gentleman cannot do and some things that society will not
stand. How many a painful experience in solving this very problem of
getting a living could be avoided if one had only learned this lesson
passing well! What a pity it is that some schools that stand to-day for
what we call educational progress are failing in just this
particular--are sending out into the world an annual crop of boys and
girls who must learn the great lesson of self-control and a proper
respect for the rights of others in the bitter school of experience,--a
school in which the rod will never be spared, but whose chastening
scourge comes sometimes, alas, too late!

There is no feature of school life which has not its almost infinite
possibilities of utility. But after all, are not the basic and
fundamental things these ideals that I have named? And should not we who
teach stand for idealism in its widest sense? Should we not ourselves
subscribe an undying fidelity to those great ideals for which teaching
must stand,--to the ideal of social service which lies at the basis of
our craft, to the ideals of effort and discipline that make a nation
great and its children strong, to the ideal of science that dissipates
the black night of ignorance and superstition, to the ideal of culture
that humanizes mankind?


[Footnote 11: An address before the Eastern Illinois Teachers'
Association, October 15, 1909. Published as a Bulletin of the Eastern
Illinois Normal School, October, 1909.]




I know that I do not need to plead with this audience for a recognition
of the scientific spirit in the solution of educational problems. The
long life and the enviable record of this Society of Pedagogy testify in
themselves to that spirit of free inquiry, to the calm and dispassionate
search for the truth which lies at the basis of the scientific method.
You have gathered here, fortnight after fortnight, to discuss
educational problems in the light of your experience. You have reported
your experience and listened to the results that others have gleaned in
the course of their daily work. And experience is the corner stone of

Some of the most stimulating and clarifying discussions of educational
problems that I have ever heard have been made in the sessions of this
Society. You have been scientific in your attitude toward education, and
I may add that I first learned the lessons of the real science of
education in the St. Louis schools, and under the inspiration that was
furnished by the men who were members of this Society. What I knew of
the science of education before I came to this city ten years ago, was
gleaned largely from books. It was deductive, _a priori_, in its nature.
What I learned here was the induction from actual experience.

My very first introduction to my colleagues among the school men of this
city was a lesson in the science of education. I had brought with me a
letter to one of your principals. He was in the office down on Locust
Street the first Saturday that I spent in the city. I presented my
letter to him, and, with that true Southern hospitality which has always
characterized your corps, he took me immediately under his wing and
carried me out to luncheon with him.

We sat for hours in a little restaurant down on Sixth Street,--he was my
teacher and I was his pupil. And gradually, as the afternoon wore on, I
realized that I had met a master craftsman in the art of education. At
first I talked glibly enough of what I intended to do, and he listened
sympathetically and helpfully, with a little quizzical smile in his eyes
as I outlined my ambitious plans. And when I had run the gamut of my
dreams, he took his turn, and, in true Socratic fashion, yet without
making me feel in the least that I was only a dreamer after all, he
refashioned my theories. One by one the little card houses that I had
built up were deftly, smoothly, gently, but completely demolished. I did
not know the ABC of schoolcraft--but he did not tell me that I did not.
He went at the task of instruction from the positive point of view. He
proved to me, by reminiscence and example, how different are actual and
ideal conditions. And finally he wound up with a single question that
opened a new world to me. "What," he asked, "is the dominant
characteristic of the child's mind?" I thought at first that I was on
safe ground--for had I not taken a course in child study, and had I not
measured some hundreds of school children while working out a university
thesis? So I began with my list. But, at each characteristic that I
mentioned he shook his head. "No," he said, "no; that is not right." And
when finally I had exhausted my list, he said to me, "The dominant
characteristic of the child's mind is its _seriousness_. The child is
the most _serious_ creature in the world."

The answer staggered me for a moment. Like ninety-nine per cent of the
adult population of this globe, the seriousness of the child had never
appealed to me. In spite of the theoretical basis of my training, that
single, dominant element of child life had escaped me. I had gained my
notion of the child from books, and, I also fear, from the Sunday
supplements. To me, deep down in my heart, the child was an animated
joke. I was immersed in unscientific preconceptions. But the master
craftsman had gained his conception of child life from intimate,
empirical acquaintance with the genus boy. He had gleaned from his
experience that fundamental truth: "The child is the most serious
creature in the world."

Sometime I hope that I may make some fitting acknowledgment of the debt
of gratitude that I owe to that man. The opportunities that I had to
talk with him were all too few, but I did make a memorable visit to his
school, and studied at first hand the great work that he was doing for
the pupils of the Columbia district. He died the next year, and I shall
never forget the words that stood beneath his picture that night in one
of the daily papers: "Charles Howard: Architect of Character."


The essence of the scientific spirit is to view experience without
prejudice, and that was the lesson that I learned from the school system
of St. Louis.

The difference between the ideal child and the real child,--the
difference between what fancy pictures a schoolroom to be and what
actual first-hand acquaintance shows that it is, the difference between
a preconceived notion and an actual stubborn fact of experience,--these
were among the lessons that I learned in these schools. But, at the same
time, there was no crass materialism accompanying this teaching. There
was no loss of the broader point of view. A fact is a fact, and we
cannot get around it,--and this is what scientific method has insisted
upon from its inception. But always beyond the fact is its significance,
its meaning. That the St. Louis schools have for the last fifty years
stood for the larger view; that they have never, so far as I know,
exploited the new and the bizarre simply because it was new and
strange,--this is due, I believe, to the insight and inspiration of the
man[13] who first fashioned the framework of this system, and breathed
into it as a system the vitalizing element of idealism. Personally, I
have not always been in sympathy with the teachings of the Hegelian
philosophy,--I have not always understood them,--but no man could
witness the silent, steady, unchecked growth of the St. Louis schools
without being firmly and indelibly impressed with dynamic value of a
richly conceived and rigidly wrought system of fundamental principles.
The cause of education has suffered much from the failure of educators
to break loose from the shackles of the past. But it has, in some
places, suffered still more from the tendency of the human mind to
confuse fundamental principles with the shackles of tradition. The rage
for the new and the untried, simply because it is new and untried,--this
has been, and is to-day, the rock upon which real educational progress
is most likely to be wrecked. This is a rock, I believe, that St. Louis
has so far escaped, and I have no doubt that its escape has been due, in
large measure, to the careful, rigid, laborious, and yet illuminating
manner in which that great captain charted out its course.


Fundamentally, there is, I believe, no discrepancy, no inconsistency,
between the scientific spirit in education and what may be called the
philosophical spirit. As I have suggested, there are always two dangers
that must be avoided: the danger, in the first place, of thinking of the
old as essentially bad; and, on the other hand, the danger of thinking
of the new and strange and unknown as essentially bad; the danger of
confusing a sound conservatism with a blind worship of established
custom; and the danger of confusing a sound radicalism with the blind
worship of the new and the bizarre.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. There is a rather bitter
controversy at present between two factions of science teachers. One
faction insists that physics and chemistry and biology should be taught
in the high school from the economic point of view,--that the economic
applications of these sciences to great human arts, such as engineering
and agriculture, should be emphasized at every point,--that a great deal
of the material now taught in these sciences is both useless and
unattractive to the average high-school pupil. The other faction
maintains that such a course would mean the destruction of science as an
integral part of the secondary culture course,--that science to be
cultural must be pure science,--must be viewed apart from its economic
applications,--apart from its relations to the bread-and-butter problem.

Now many of the advocates of the first point of view--many of the people
that would emphasize the economic side--are animated by the spirit of
change and unrest which dominates our latter-day civilization. They wish
to follow the popular demand. "Down with scholasticism!" is their cry;
"Down with this blind worship of custom and tradition! Let us do the
thing that gives the greatest immediate benefit to our pupils. Let us
discard the elements in our courses that are hard and dry and barren of
practical results." Now these men, I believe, are basing their argument
upon the fallacy of immediate expediency. The old is bad, the new is
good. That is their argument. They have no sheet anchor out to windward.
They are willing to drift with the gale.

Many of the advocates of the second point of view--many of the people
who hold to the old line, pure-science teaching--are, on the other hand,
animated by a spirit of irrational conservatism. "Down with radicalism!"
they shout; "Down with the innovators! Things that are hard and dry are
good mental discipline. They made our fathers strong. They can make our
children strong. What was good enough for the great minds of the past is
good enough for us."

Now these men, I believe, have gone to the other extreme. They have
confused custom and tradition with fundamental and eternal principles.
They have thought that, just because a thing is old, it is good, just as
their antagonists have thought that just because a thing is new it is

In both cases, obviously, the scientific spirit is lacking. The most
fundamental of all principles is the principle of truth. And yet these
men who are teachers of science are--both classes of them--ruled
themselves by dogma. And meantime the sciences are in danger of losing
their place in secondary education. The rich promise that was held out a
generation ago has not been fulfilled. Within the last decade, the
enrollment in the science courses has not increased in proportion to the
total enrollment, while the enrollment in Latin (which fifteen years ago
was about to be cast upon the educational scrap heap) has grown by leaps
and bounds.

Now this is a type of a great many controversies in education. We talk
and theorize, but very seldom do we try to find out the actual facts in
the case by any adequate tests.

It was the lack of such tests that led us at the University of Illinois
to enter upon a series of impartial investigations to see whether we
could not take some of these mooted questions out of the realm of
eternal controversy, and provide some definite solutions. We chose among
others this controversy between the economic scientists and the pure
scientists. We took a high-school class and divided it into two
sections. We tried to place in each section an equal number of bright
and mediocre and dull pupils, so that the conditions would be equalized.
Then we chose an excellent teacher, a man who could approach the problem
with an open mind, without prejudice or favor. During the present year
he has been teaching these parallel sections. In one section he has
emphasized economic applications; in the other he has taught the class
upon the customary pure-science basis. He has kept a careful record of
his work, and at stated intervals he has given both sections the same
tests. We propose to carry on this investigation year after year with
different classes, different teachers, and in different schools. We are
not in a hurry to reach conclusions.

Now I said that the safeguard in all work of this sort is to keep our
grip firm and fast on the eternal truths. In this work that I mention we
are not trying to prove that either pure science or applied science
interests our pupils the more or helps them the more in meeting
immediate economic situations. We do not propose to measure the success
of either method by its effect upon the bread-winning power of the
pupil. What we believe that science teaching should insure, is a grip on
the scientific method and an illuminating insight into the forces of
nature, and we are simply attempting to see whether the economic
applications will make this grip firmer or weaker, and this insight
clearer or more obscure. I trust that this point is plain, for it
illustrates what I have just said regarding the danger of following a
popular demand. We need no experiment to prove that economic science is
more useful in the narrow sense than is pure science. What we wish to
determine is whether a judicious mixture of the two sorts of teaching
will or will not enable us to realize this rich cultural value much more
effectively than a traditional purely cultural course.

Now that illustrates what I think is the real and important application
of the scientific spirit to the solution of educational problems. You
will readily see that it does not do away necessarily with our ideals.
It is not necessarily materialistic. It is not necessarily idealistic.
Either side may utilize it. It is a quite impersonal factor. But it does
promise to take some of our educational problems out of the field of
useless and wasteful controversy, and it does promise to get men of
conflicting views together,--for, in the case that I have just cited, if
we prove that the right admixture of methods may enable us to realize
both a cultural and a utilitarian value, there is no reason why the
culturists and the utilitarians should not get together, cease their
quarreling, take off their coats, and go to work. Few people will deny
that bread and butter is a rather essential thing in this life of ours;
very few will deny that material prosperity in temperate amounts is good
for all of us; and very few also will deny that far more fundamental
than bread and butter--far more important than material prosperity--are
the great fundamental and eternal truths which man has wrought out of
his experience and which are most effectively crystallized in the
creations of pure art, the masterpieces of pure literature, and the
discoveries of pure science.

Certainly if we of the twentieth century can agree upon any one thing,
it is this: That life without toil is a crime, and that any one who
enjoys leisure and comfort and the luxuries of living without paying the
price of toil is a social parasite. I believe that it is an important
function of public education to impress upon each generation the highest
ideals of living as well as the arts that are essential to the making of
a livelihood, but I wish to protest against the doctrine that these two
factors stand over against one another as the positive and negative
poles of human existence. In other words, I protest against the notion,
that the study of the practical everyday problems of human life is
without what we are pleased to call a culture value,--that in the proper
study of those problems one is not able to see the operation of
fundamental and eternal principles.

I shall readily agree that there is always a grave danger that the
trivial and temporary objects of everyday life may be viewed and studied
without reference to these fundamental principles. But this danger is
certainly no greater than that the permanent and eternal truths be
studied without reference to the actual, concrete, workaday world in
which we live. I have seen exercises in manual training that had for
their purpose the perfection of the pupil in some little art of joinery
for which he would, in all probability, have not the slightest use in
his later life. But even if he should find use for it, the process was
not being taught in the proper way. He was being made conscious only of
the little trivial thing, and no part of his instruction was directed
toward the much more important, fundamental lesson,--the lesson, namely,
that "a little thing may be perfect, but that perfection itself is not a
little thing."

I say that I have witnessed such an exercise in the very practical field
of manual training. I may add that I went through several such exercises
myself, and emerged with a disgust that always recurs to me when I am
told that every boy will respond to the stimulus of the hammer and the
jack plane. But I should hasten to add that I have also seen what we
call the humanities so taught that the pupil has emerged from them with
a supreme contempt for the life of labor and a feeling of disgust at the
petty and trivial problems of human life which every one must face. I
have seen art and literature so taught as to leave their students not
with the high purpose to mold their lives in accordance with the high
ideals that art and literature represent, not the firm resolution to do
what they could to relieve the ugliness of the world where they found
it ugly, or to do what they could to ennoble life when they found it
vile; but rather with an attitude of calm superiority, as if they were
in some way privileged to the delights of æsthetic enjoyment, leaving
the baser born to do the world's drudgery.

I have seen the principles of agriculture so taught as to leave with the
student the impression that he could raise more corn than his neighbor
and sell it at a higher price if he mastered the principles of
nitrification; and all without one single reference to the basic
principle of conservation upon which the welfare of the human race for
all time to come must inevitably depend,--without a single reference to
the moral iniquity of waste and sloth and ignorance. But I have also
seen men who have mastered the scientific method,--the method of
controlled observation, and unprejudiced induction and inference,--in
the laboratories of pure science; and who have gained so overweening and
hypertrophied a regard for this method that they have considered it too
holy to be contaminated by application to practical problems,--who have
sneered contemptuously when some adventurer has proposed, for example,
to subject the teaching of science itself to the searchlight of
scientific method.

I trust that these examples have made my point clear, for it is
certainly simple enough. If vocational education means simply that the
arts and skills of industrial life are to be transmitted safely from
generation to generation, a minimum of educational machinery is all that
is necessary, and we do not need to worry much about it. If vocational
education means simply this, it need not trouble us much; for economic
conditions will sooner or later provide for an effective means of
transmission, just as economic conditions will sooner or later perfect,
through a blind and empirical process of elimination, the most effective
methods of agriculture, as in the case of China and other overpopulated
nations of the Orient.

But I take it that we mean by vocational education something more than
this, just as we mean by cultural education something more than a veneer
of language, history, pure science, and the fine arts. In the former
case, the practical problems of life are to be lifted to the plane of
fundamental principles; in the latter case, fundamental principles are
to be brought down to the plane of present, everyday life. I can see no
discrepancy here. To my mind there is no cultural subject that has not
its practical outcome, and there is no practical subject that has not
its humanizing influence if only we go to some pains to seek it out. I
do not object to a subject of instruction that promises to put dollars
into the pockets of those that study it. I do object to the mode of
teaching that subject which fails to use this effective economic appeal
in stimulating a glimpse of the broader vision. I do not object to the
subject that appeals to the pupil's curiosity because it informs him of
the wonderful deeds that men have done in the past. I do object to that
mode of teaching this subject which simply arouses interest in a
spectacular deed, and then fails to use this interest in the
interpretation of present problems. I do not contend that in either case
there must be an explicit pointing of morals and drawing of lessons. But
I do contend that the teacher who is in charge of the process should
always have this purpose in the forefront of his consciousness, and--now
by direct comparison, now by indirection and suggestion--guide his
pupils to the goal desired.

I hope that through careful tests, we shall some day be able to
demonstrate that there is much that is good and valuable on both sides
of every controverted educational question. After all, in this complex
and intricate task of teaching to which you and I are devoting our
lives, there is too much at stake to permit us for a moment to be
dogmatic,--to permit us for a moment to hold ourselves in any other
attitude save one of openness and reception to the truth when the truth
shall have been demonstrated. Neither your ideas nor mine, nor those of
any man or group of men, living or dead, are important enough to stand
in the way of the best possible accomplishment of that great task to
which we have set our hands.


But I did not propose this morning to talk to you about science as a
part of our educational curriculum, but rather about the scientific
spirit and the scientific method as effective instruments for the
solution of our own peculiar educational problems. I have tried to give
you reasons for believing that an adoption of this policy does not
necessarily commit us to materialism or to a narrowly economic point of
view. I have attempted to show that the scientific method may be applied
to the solution of our problems while we still retain our faith in
ideals; and that, unless we do retain that faith, our investigations
will be without point or meaning.

This problem of vocational education to which I have just referred is
one that is likely to remain unsolved until we have made a searching
investigation of its factors in the light of scientific method. Some
people profess not to be worried by the difficulty of finding time in
our elementary and secondary schools for the introduction of the newer
subjects making for increased vocational efficiency. They would cut the
Gordian knot with one single operation by eliminating enough of the
older subjects to make room for the new. I confess that this solution
does not appeal to me. Fundamentally the core of the elementary
curriculum must, I believe, always be the arts that are essential to
every one who lives the social life. In other words, the language arts
and the number arts are, and always must be, the fundamentals of
elementary education. I do not believe that specialized vocational
education should ever be introduced at the expense of thorough training
in the subjects that already hold their place in the curriculum. And yet
we are confronted by the economic necessity of solving in some way this
vocational problem. How are we to do it?

It is here that the scientific method may perhaps come to our aid. The
obvious avenue of attack upon this problem is to determine whether we
cannot save time and energy, not by the drastic operation of eliminating
old subjects, but rather by improving our technique of teaching, so that
the waste may be reduced, and the time thus saved given to these new
subjects that are so vociferously demanding admission. In Cleveland, for
example, the method of teaching spelling has been subjected to a rigid
scientific treatment, and, as a result, spelling is being taught to-day
vastly better than ever before and with a much smaller expenditure of
time and energy. It has been due, very largely, to the application of a
few well-known principles which the science of psychology has furnished.

Now that is vastly better than saying that spelling is a subject that
takes too much time in our schools and consequently ought forthwith to
be eliminated. In all of our school work enough time is undoubtedly
wasted to provide ample opportunity for training the child thoroughly
in some vocation if we wish to vocationalize him, and I do not think
that this would hurt him, even if he does not follow the vocation in
later life.

To-day we are attempting to detect these sources of waste in technique.
The problems of habit building or memorizing are already well on the way
to solution. Careful tests have shown the value of doing memory work in
a certain definite way--learning by unit wholes rather than by
fragments, for example. Experiments have been conducted to determine the
best length of time to give to drill processes, such as spelling, and
penmanship, and the fundamental tables of arithmetic. It is already
clearly demonstrated that brief periods of intense concentration are
more economical than longer periods during which the monotony of
repetition fags the mind to a point where it can no longer work
effectively. We are also beginning to see from these tests, that a
systematic method of attacking such a problem as the memorizing of the
tables will do much to save time and promote efficiency. We are finding
that it is extremely profitable to instruct children in the technique of
learning,--to start them out in the right way by careful example, so
that much of the time and energy that was formerly dissipated, may now
be conserved.

And there is a suggestion, also, that in the average school, the vast
possibilities of the child's latent energy are only imperfectly
realized. A friend of mine stumbled accidentally upon this fact by
introducing a new method of grading. He divided his pupils into three
groups or streams. The group that progressed the fastest was made up of
those who averaged 85 per cent and over in their work. A middle group
averaged between 75 per cent and 85 per cent in their work, and a third,
slow group was made up of those who averaged below 75 per cent. At the
end of the first month, he found that a certain proportion of his
pupils, who had formerly hovered around the passing grade of 70, began
to forge ahead. Many of them easily went into the fastest stream, but
they were still satisfied with the minimum standing for that group. In
other words, whether we like to admit it or not, most men and women and
boys and girls are content with the passing grades, both in school and
in life. So common is the phenomenon that we think of the matter
fatalistically. But supply a stimulus, raise the standard, and you will
find some of these individuals forging up to the next level.

Professor James's doctrine of latent energies bids fair to furnish the
solution of a vast number of perplexing educational problems. Certain it
is that our pupils of to-day are not overburdened with work. They are
sometimes irritated by too many tasks, sometimes dulled by dead routine,
sometimes exhilarated to the point of mental _ennui_ by spectacular
appeals to immediate interest. But they are seldom overworked, or even
worked to within a healthful degree of the fatigue point.

Elementary education has often been accused of transacting its business
in small coin,--of dealing with and emphasizing trivialities,--and yet
every time that the scientific method touches the field of education, it
reveals the fundamental significance of little things. Whether the
third-grade pupil should memorize the multiplication tables in the form,
"8 times 9 equals 72" or simply "8-9's--72" seems a matter of
insignificance in contrast with the larger problems that beset us. And
yet scientific investigation tells us clearly and unequivocally that any
useless addition to a formula to be memorized increases the time for
reducing the formula to memory, and interferes significantly with its
recall and application. It may seem a matter of trivial importance
whether the pupil increases the subtrahend number or decreases the
minuend number when he subtracts digits that involve taking or
borrowing; and yet investigation proves that to increase the subtrahend
number is by far the simpler process, and eliminates both a source of
waste and a source of error, which, in the aggregate, may assume a
significance to mental economy that is well worth considering.

In fact, if we are ever to solve the broader, bigger, more attractive
problems,--like the problem of vocational education, or the problem of
retardation,--we must first find a solution for some of the smaller and
seemingly trivial questions of the very existence of which the lay
public may be quite unaware, but which you and I know to mean an untold
total of waste and inefficiency in the work that we are trying to do.

And one reason why the scientific attitude toward educational problems
appeals to me is simply because this attitude carries with it a respect
for these seemingly trivial and commonplace problems; for just as the
greatest triumph of the teaching art is to get our pupils to see in
those things of life that are fleeting and transitory the operation of
fundamental and eternal principles, so the glory of the scientific
method lies in its power to reveal the significance of the commonplace
and to teach us that no slightest detail of our daily work is
necessarily devoid of inspiration; that every slightest detail of school
method and school management has a meaning and a significance that it is
worth our while to ponder.


[Footnote 12: An address delivered before the St. Louis Society of
Pedagogy, April 16, 1910.]

[Footnote 13: Dr. W.T. Harris.]




In its widest aspects, the problem of teaching pupils how to study forms
a large part of the larger educational problem. It means, not only
teaching them how to read books, and to make the content of books part
of their own mental capital, but also, and perhaps far more
significantly, teaching them how to draw lessons from their own
experiences; not only how to observe and classify and draw conclusions,
but also how to evaluate their experience--how to judge whether certain
things that they do give adequate or inadequate results.

In the narrower sense, however, the art of study may be said to consist
in the ability to assimilate the experiences of others, and it is in
this narrower sense that I shall discuss the problem to-day. It is not
only in books that human experience is recorded, and yet it is true that
the reading of books is the most economical means of gaining these
experiences; consequently, we may still further narrow our problem to
this: How may pupils be trained effectively to glean, through the medium
of the printed page, the great lessons of race experience?

The word "study" is thus used in the sense in which most teachers employ
it. When we speak of a pupil's studying his lessons, we commonly mean
that he is bending over a text-book, attempting to assimilate the
contents of the text. Just what it means to study, even in this narrow
sense of the term,--just what it means, psychologically, to assimilate
even the simplest thoughts of others,--I cannot tell you, and I do not
know of any one who can answer this seemingly simple question
satisfactorily. We all study, but what happens in our minds when we do
study is a mystery. We all do some thinking, and yet the psychology of
thinking is the great undiscovered and unexplored region in the field of
mental science. Until we know something of the psychology of thinking,
we can hope for very little definite information concerning the
psychology of study, for study is so intimately bound up with thinking
that the two are not to be separated.

But even if it is impossible at the present time to analyze the process
of studying, we are pretty well agreed as to what constitutes successful
study, and many rules have been formulated for helping pupils to acquire
effective habits of study. These rules concern us only indirectly at the
present time, for our problem is still narrower in its scope. It has to
do with the possibility of so training children in the art of study,
not only that they may study effectively in school, but also that they
may carry over the habits and methods of study thus acquired into the
tasks of later life. In other words, the topic that we are discussing is
but one phase of the problem of formal discipline,--the problem of
securing a transfer of training from a specific field to other fields;
and my purpose is to view this topic of "study" in the light of what we
know concerning the possibilities of transfer.

Let me take a specific example. I am not so much concerned with the
problem of getting a pupil to master a history lesson quickly and
effectively,--not how he may best assimilate the facts concerning the
Missouri Compromise, for example. My task is rather to determine how we
can make his mastery of the Missouri Compromise a lesson in the general
art of study,--how that mastery may help him develop what we used to
call the general power of study,--the capacity to apply an effective
method of study to other problems, perhaps, very far removed from the
history lesson; in other words, how that single lesson may help him in
the more general task of finding any type of information when he needs
it, of assimilating it once he has found it, and of applying it once he
has assimilated it.

In an audience of practical teachers, it is hardly necessary to
emphasize the significance of doing this very thing. From one point of
view, it may be asserted that the whole future of what we term general
education, as distinguished from technical or vocational education,
depends upon our ability to solve problems like this, and solve them
satisfactorily. We can never justify universal general education beyond
the merest rudiments unless we can demonstrate acceptably that the
training which general education furnishes will help the individual to
solve the everyday problems of his life. Either we must train the pupil
in a general way so that he will be able to acquire specialized skill
more quickly and more effectively than will the pupil who lacks this
general training; or we must give up a large part of the general-culture
courses that now occupy an important part in our elementary and
secondary curriculums, and replace these with technical and vocational
subjects that shall have for their purpose the development of
specialized efficiency.

All teachers, I take it, are alive to the grave dangers of the latter
policy. Whether we have thought the matter through logically or not we
certainly _feel_ strongly that too early specialization will work a
serious injury to the cause of education, and, through education, to the
larger cause of social advancement and enlightenment. We view with grave
foreboding any policy that will shut the door of opportunity to any
child, no matter how humble or how unpromising. And yet we also know
that, unless the general education that we now offer can be distinctly
shown to have a beneficial influence upon specialized efficiency, we
shall be forced by economic conditions into this very policy. It is
small wonder, then, that so many of our educational discussions and
investigations to-day turn upon this problem; and among the various
phases of the problem none is more significant than that which is
covered by our topic of to-day,--How may we develop in the pupil a
general power or capacity for gaining information independently of
schools and teachers? If we could adequately develop this power, there
is much in the way of specialized instruction that could be safely left
to the individual himself. If we could teach him how to study, then we
could perhaps trust him to master some of the principles of any calling
that he undertakes in so far as these principles can be mastered from
books. To teach the child to study effectively is to do the most useful
thing that could be done to help him to adjust himself to any
environment of modern civilized life into which he may be thrown. For
there is one thing that the more radical advocates of a narrow
vocational education commonly forget, and that is the constant change
that is going on in industrial processes. When we limit our vocational
teaching to a mere mastery of technique, there is no guarantee that the
process which we teach to-day may not be discarded in five or ten years
from to-day. Even the narrower technical principles which are so
extremely important to-day may be relatively insignificant by the time
that the child whom we are training takes his place in the industrial
world. But if we can arm the individual with the more fundamental
principles which are fixed for all time; and if, in addition to this,
we can teach him how to master the specialized principles which may come
into the field unheralded and unexpected, and turn topsy-turvy the older
methods of doing his work, then we shall have done much toward helping
him in solving that perplexing problem of gaining a livelihood.


I shall not try in this discussion of the problem of study to summarize
completely the principles and precepts that have been presented so well
in the four books on the subject that have appeared in the last two
years. I do not know, in fact, of any book that is more useful to the
teacher just at present than Professor Frank McMurry's _How to Study and
Teaching how to Study_. It is a book that is both a help and a delight,
for it is clear and well-organized, and written in a vivacious style and
with a wealth of concrete illustration that holds the attention from
beginning to end. The chief fault that I have to find with it is the
fault that I have to find with almost every educational book that comes
from the press to-day,--the tendency, namely, to imply that the teacher
of to-day is doing very little to solve these troublesome problems. As a
matter of fact, many teachers are securing excellent results from their
attempts to teach pupils how to study. Otherwise we should not find so
many energetic young men to-day who are making an effective individual
mastery of the principles of their respective trades and professions
independently of schools and teachers. Our attitude toward these
questions, far from being that of the pessimist, should be that of the
optimist. Our task should be to seek out these successful teachers, and
find out how they do their work.

Among the most important points emphasized by the recent writers upon
the art of study is the necessity for some form of motivation in the
work of mastering the text. We all know that if a pupil feels a distinct
need for getting information out of a book, the chances are that he will
get it if the book is available and if he can read. To create a problem
that will involve in its solution the gaining of such information is,
therefore, one of the best approaches to a mastery of the art of study.
It is, however, only the beginning. It furnishes the necessary energy,
but does not map out the path along which this energy is to be expended.
And this is where the greater emphasis, perhaps, is needed.

One of the best teachers that I ever knew taught the subject that we now
call agronomy,--a branch of agricultural science that has to do with
field crops. I was a mere boy when I sat under his instruction, but
certain points in his method of teaching made a most distinct impression
upon me. Lectures we had, of course, for lecturing was the orthodox
method of class instruction. But this man did something more than merely
lecture. He assigned each one of his students a plat of ground on the
college farm. Upon this plat of ground, a definite experiment was to be
conducted. One of my experiments had to do with the smut of oats. I was
to try the effect of treating the seed with hot water in order to see
whether it would prevent the fungus from later destroying the ripening
grain. The very nature of the problem interested me intensely. I began
to wonder about the life-history of this fungus,--how it looked and how
it germinated and how it grew and wrought its destructive influence. It
was not long before I found myself spending some of my leisure moments
in the library trying to find out what was known concerning this
subject. I was not so successful as I might have been, but I am
confident that I learned more about parasitic fungi under the spur of
that curiosity than I should have done in five times the number of hours
spent in formal, meaningless study.

But the point of my experience is not that a problem interest had been
awakened, but rather that the white heat of that interest was not
utilized so completely as it might have been utilized in fixing upon my
mind some important details in the general method of running down
references and acquiring information. That was the moment to strike, and
one serious defect of our school organization to-day is that most
teachers, like my teacher at that time, have so much to do that anything
like individual attention at such moments is out of the question.

Next to individual attention, probably, the best way to overcome the
difficulty is to give class instruction in these matters,--to set aside
a definite period for teaching pupils the technique of using books. If
one could arouse a sufficiently general problem interest, this sort of
instruction could be made most effective. But even if the problem
interest is not general, I think that it is well to assume that it
exists in some pupils, at least, and to give them the benefit of class
instruction in the art of study,--even if some of the seed should fall
upon barren soil.

This aspect of teaching pupils how to study is particularly important in
the upper grades and the high school, where pupils have sufficiently
mastered the technique of reading to be intrusted with individual
problems, and where some reference books are commonly available. Chief
among these always is the dictionary, and to get pupils to use this
ponderous volume effectively is one of the important steps in teaching
them how to study. Here, too, it is easy to be pedantic. As I shall
insist strenuously a little later, the chief factor in insuring a
transfer of training from one subject to another is to leave in the
pupil's mind a distinct consciousness that the method that he has been
trained to follow is worth while,--that it gets results. The dictionary
habit is likely to begin and end within the schoolroom unless steps are
taken to insure the operation of this factor. It is easy to overwork the
dictionary and to use it fruitlessly, in so great a measure, in fact,
that the pupil will never want to see a dictionary again.

Aside from the use of the dictionary, is the use of the helps that
modern books provide for finding the information that may be
desired,--indices, tables of contents, marginal and cross-references,
and the like. These, again, are most significant in the work of the
upper grades and the high school, and here again if we wish the skill
that is developed in their use to be transferred, we must take pains to
see that the pupil really appreciates their value,--that he realizes
their time-saving and energy-saving functions. I do not know that there
is any better way to do this than to let him flounder around without
them for a little so that his sense of their value may be enhanced by


Another important step emphasized by the recent writers is the need for
training children to pick out the significant features in the text or
portion of the text that they are reading. This, of course, is work that
is to be undertaken from the very moment that they begin to use books.
How to do it effectively is a puzzling problem and one that will amply
repay study and experimentation by the individual teacher. Much studying
of lessons by teachers and pupils together will help, provided that the
exercise is spirited and vital, and is not looked upon by the pupils as
an easy way of getting out of recitation work. McMurry strongly
recommends the marking of books to indicate the topic sentences and the
other salient features. Personally, I am sure from my own experience
that the assignment is all-important here, and that study questions and
problems which can be answered or solved by reference to the text will
help matters very much; but care must, of course, be taken that the
continued use of such questions does not preclude the pupil's own
mastery of the art of study. To eliminate this danger, it is well that
the pupils be requested frequently to make out their own lists of
questions, and, as speedily as possible, both the questions made by the
pupil and those made by the teacher, should be replaced by topical
outlines. By taking care that the questions are logically
arranged,--that is, that a general question refer to the topic of the
paragraph, and other subordinate questions to the subordinate details of
the paragraph,--the transition from the questions to the topical outline
may be readily made. Simultaneously with this will go the transition in
recitation from the question-and-answer type to the topical type; and
when you have trained a class into the habit of topical
recitation,--when each pupil can talk right through a topic (not around
it or underneath it or above it) without the use of "pumping" questions
by the teacher,--you have gone a long way toward developing the art of

The transfer of this training, however, is quite another matter. There
are pupils who can work up excellent topical recitations from their
school text-books but who are utterly at sea in getting a grasp on a
subject treated in other books. Here again the problem lies in getting
the pupil to see the method apart from its content, and to show him that
it really brings results that are worth while. If, in our training in
the topical method, we are too formal and didactic, the art of study
will begin and end right there. It is here that the factor of motivation
is of supreme importance. When real problems are raised which require
for their solution intelligent reading, the general worth of the method
of study can be clearly shown. I do not go so far as to say that the
pupil should never be required to study unless he has a real problem
that he wishes to solve. In fact, I think that we still have a large
place for the formal, systematic mastery of texts by every pupil in our
schools. I do contend, however, that the frequent introduction of real
problems will give us an opportunity to show the pupil that the method
that he has utilized in his more formal school work is adequate and
essential to do the thing that appeals to him as worth while. Only in
this way, I believe, can we insure that transfer of training which is
the important factor from our present standpoint.

And I ought also to say, parenthetically, that we should not interpret
too narrowly this word "motivation." Let us remember that what may
appeal to the adult as an effective motive does not always appeal to the
child as such. Economic motives are the most effective, probably, in our
own adult lives, and probably very effective with high-school pupils,
but economic motives are not always strong in young children, nor should
we wish them to be. It is not always true that the child will approach a
school task sympathetically when he knows that the task is an essential
preparation for the life that is going on about him. He may work harder
at a task in order to get ahead of his fellow-pupils than he would if
the motive were to fit him to enter a shop or a factory. Motive is
largely a matter of instinct with the child, and he may, indeed, be
perfectly satisfied with a school task just as it stands. For example,
we all know that children enjoy the right kind of drill. Repetition,
especially rhythmic repetition, is instinctive,--it satisfies an inborn
need. Where such a condition exists, it is an obvious waste of time to
search about for more indirect motives. The economical thing to do is to
turn the ready energy of the child into the channel that is already open
to it, so long as this procedure fits in with the results that we must
secure. I feel like emphasizing this fact, inasmuch as the terms
"problem interest" and "motivation" seem most commonly to be associated
in the minds of teachers with what we adults term "real" or economic
situations. To learn a lesson well may often be a sufficient
motive,--may often constitute a "real" situation to the child,--and if
it does, it will serve very effectively our purposes in this other
task,--namely, getting the pupil to see the worth of the method that we
ask him to employ.


There are one or two points of a general nature in connection with the
art of study that should be emphasized. In the first place, the
upper-grade and high-school pupils are, I believe, mature enough to
appreciate in some degree what knowledge really means. One of the
fallacies of which I was possessed on completing my work in the lower
schools was the belief that there are some men who know everything. I
naturally concluded that the superintendent of schools was one of these
men; the family physician was another; the leading man in my town was a
third; and any one who ever wrote a book was put, _ex officio_ so to
speak, into this class without further inquiry. One of the most
astounding revelations of my later education was to learn that, after
all, the amount of real knowledge in this world, voluminous though it
seems, is after all pitiably small. Of opinion and speculation we have a
surplus, but of real, downright, hard fact, our capital is still most
insignificant. And I wonder if something could not be done in the high
school to teach pupils the difference between fact and opinion, and
something also of the slow, laborious process through which real facts
are accumulated. How many mistakes of life are due to the lack of the
judicial attitude right here. What mistakes we all make when we try to
evaluate writings outside of our own special field of knowledge or
activity. Nothing depresses me to-day quite so much as the readiness
with which laymen mistake opinion for fact in the field of psychology
and education,--and I suppose that my own hasty acceptance of statements
in other fields would have a similar effect upon the specialists of
those fields.

Can general education help us out at all in this matter? I have only
one or two suggestions to make, and even these may not be worth a great
deal. In the recent Polar controversy, the sympathies of the general
public were, I think, at the outset with Cook. This was perhaps,
natural, and yet the trained mind ought to have withheld judgment for
one reason if for no other,--and that one reason was Peary's long Arctic
service, his unquestioned mastery of the technique of polar travel, his
general reputation for honesty and caution in advancing opinions. By all
the lessons that history teaches, Peary's word should have had
precedence over Cook's, for Peary was a specialist, while Cook was only
an amateur. And yet the general public discounted entirely those
lessons, and trusted rather the novice, with what results it is now
unnecessary to review,--and in nine cases out of ten, the results will
be the same.

Could we not, as part of our work in training pupils to study, also
teach them to give some sort of an evaluation to the authorities that
they consult? Could we not teach them that, in nine cases out of ten, at
least, the man who has the message most worth listening to is the man
who has worked the hardest and the longest in his field, and who enjoys
the best reputation among his fellow-workers? Sometimes, I admit, the
rule does not work, and especially with men whose reputations as
authorities have outlived their period of productivity, but even this
mistake could be guarded against. Certainly high-school pupils ought
distinctly to understand that the authors of their text-books are not
always the most learned men or the greatest authorities in the fields
that they treat. The use of biographical dictionaries, of the books that
are appearing in various fields giving brief biographies and often some
authoritative estimate of the workers in these fields, is important in
this connection.

McMurry recommends that pupils be encouraged to take a critical attitude
toward the principles they are set to master,--to judge, as he says, the
soundness and worth of the statements that they learn. This is certainly
good advice, and wherever the pupil can intelligently deal with real
sources, it is well frequently to have him check up the statements of
secondary sources. But, after all, this is the age of the specialist,
and to trust one's untrained judgment in a field remote from one's
knowledge and experience is likely to lead to unfortunate results. We
have all sorts of illustrations from the ignorant man who will not trust
the physician or the health official in matters of sanitation; because
he lacks the proper perspective, he jumps to the conclusion that the
specialist is a fraud. Would it not be well to supplement McMurry's
suggestion by the one that I have just made,--that is, that we train
pupils how to evaluate authorities as well as facts,--how to protect
themselves from the quack and the faker who live like parasites upon the
ignorance of laymen, both in medicine, in education, and in Arctic

And I believe that there is a place, also, in the high school,
especially in connection with the work in science and history, for
giving pupils some idea of how knowledge is really gained. I should not
teach science exclusively by the laboratory method, nor history
exclusively by the source method, but I should certainly take frequent
opportunity to let pupils work through some simple problems from the
beginnings, struggling with the conditions somewhat as the discoverers
themselves struggled; following up "blind leads" and toilsomely
returning for a fresh start; meeting with discouragement; and finally
feeling, perhaps, some of the joy that comes with success after
struggle; and all in order that they may know better and appreciate more
fully the cost and the worth of that intellectual heritage which the
master-minds of the world have bequeathed to the present and the future.
And along with this, as they master the principles of science, let them
learn also the human side of science,--the story of Newton, withholding
his great discovery for years until he could be absolutely certain that
it was a law; until he could get the very commonplace but obstreperous
moon into harmony with his law of falling bodies;--the story of Darwin,
with his twenty-odd years of the most patient and persistent kind of
toil; delving into the most unpromising materials, reading the driest
books, always on the lookout for the facts that would point the way to
the explanation of species;--the story of Morse and his bitter struggle
against poverty, and sickness, and innumerable disappointments up to
the time when, in advancing years, success crowned his efforts.

All this may seem very remote from the prosaic task of teaching pupils
how to study; and yet it will lend its influence toward the attainment
of that end. For, after all, we must lead our pupils to see that some
books, in spite of their formidable difficulties and their apparent
abstractions, are still close to life, and that the truth which lies in
books, and which we wish them to assimilate, has been wrought out of
human experience, and not brought down miraculously from some remote
storehouse of wisdom that is accessible only to the elect. We poke a
good deal of fun at book learning nowadays, and there is a pedantic type
of book learning that certainly deserves all the ridicule that can be
heaped upon it. But it is not wise to carry satire and ridicule too far
in any direction, and especially when it may mean creating in young
minds a distrust of the force that, more than any other single factor,
has operated to raise man above the savage.


To teach the child the art of study means, then, that we take every
possible occasion to impress upon his mind the value of study as a means
of solving real and vital problems, and that, with this as an incentive,
we gradually and persistently and systematically lead him to grasp the
method of study as a method,--that is, slowly and gradually to abstract
the method from the particular cases to which he applies it and to
emotionalize it,--to make it an ideal. Only in this way, so far as we
may know, can the art be so generalized as to find ready application in
his later life. To this end, it is essential that the steps be taken
repeatedly,--not begun to-day and never thought of again until next
year,--but daily, even hourly, insuring a little growth. This means,
too, not only that the teacher must possess a high degree of
patience,--that first principle of pedagogic skill,--but also that he
have a comprehensive grasp of the problem, and the ability to separate
the woods from the trees, so that, to him at least, the chief aim will
never be lost to view.

But, even at its best, the task is a severe one, and we need, here as
elsewhere in education, carefully controlled tests and experiments, that
will enable us to get at the facts. Above all, let me protest against
the incidental theory of teaching pupils how to study. To adopt the
incidental policy in any field of education,--whether in arithmetic, or
spelling, or reading; whether in developing the power of reasoning or
the memory, or the art of study,--is to throw wide open the doors that
lead to the lines of least resistance, to lax methods, to easy honors,
to weakened mental fiber, and to scamped work. Just as the pernicious
doctrine of the subconscious is the first and last refuge of the
psycho-faker, so incidental learning is the first and last refuge of
soft pedagogy. And I mean by incidental learning, going at a teaching
task in an indolent, unreflective, hit-or-miss fashion in the hope that
somehow or other from this process will emerge the very definite results
that we desire.


[Footnote 14: A paper read before the Superintendents' Section of the
Illinois State Teachers' Association, December 29, 1910.]




One way to be definite in education is to formulate as clearly as we can
the aims that we hope to realize in every stage of our work. The task of
teaching is so complex that, unless we strive earnestly and persistently
to reduce it to the simplest possible terms, we are bound to work
blindly and ineffectively.

It is only one phase of this topic that I wish to discuss with you this
morning. My plea for the definite in education will be limited not only
to the field of educational aims and values, but to a small corner of
that field. Your morning's program has dealt with the problem of
teaching history in the elementary school. I should like, if you are
willing, to confine my remarks to this topic, and to attack the specific
question, What is the history that we teach in the grades to do for the
pupil? I wish to make this limitation, not only because what I have to
say will be related to the other topics on the program, but also because
this very subject of history is one which the lack of a definite
standard of educational value has been keenly felt.

I should admit at the outset that my interest in history is purely
educational. I have had no special training in historical research. As
you may perhaps infer from my discussion, my acquaintance with
historical facts is very far from comprehensive. I speak as a layman in
history,--and I do it openly and, perhaps, a little defiantly, for I
believe that the last person to pass adequate judgment upon the general
educational value of a given department of knowledge is a man who has
made the department a life study. I have little faith in what the
mathematician has to say regarding the educational value of mathematics
_for the average elementary pupil_, because he is a special pleader and
his conclusions cannot escape the coloring of his prejudice. I once knew
an enthusiastic brain specialist who maintained that, in every grade of
the elementary school, instruction should be required in the anatomy of
the human brain. That man was an expert in his own line. He knew more
about the structure of the brain than any other living man. But knowing
more about brain morphology also implied that he knew less about many
other things, and among the things that he knew little about were the
needs and capacities of children in the elementary school. He was a
special pleader; he had been dealing with his special subject so long
that it had assumed a disproportionate value in his eyes. Brain
morphology had given him fame, honor, and worldly emoluments. Naturally
he would have an exaggerated notion of its value.

It is the same with any other specialist. As specialists in education,
you and I are likely to overemphasize the importance of the common
school in the scheme of creation. Personally I am convinced that the
work of elementary education is the most profoundly significant work in
the world; and yet I can realize that I should be no fit person to make
comparisons if the welfare of a number of other professions and callings
were at stake. I should let an unbiased judge make the final


The first question for which we should seek an answer in connection with
the value of any school subject is this: How does it influence conduct?
Let me insist at the outset that we cannot be definite by saying simply
that we teach history in order to impart instruction. If there is one
thing upon which we are all agreed to-day it is this: that it is what
our pupils do that counts, not what they know. The knowledge that they
may possess has value only in so far as it may directly or indirectly be
turned over into action.

Let us not be mistaken upon this point. Knowledge is of the utmost
importance, but it is important only as a means to an end--and the end
is conduct. If my pupils act in no way more efficiently after they have
received my instruction than they would have acted had they never come
under my influence, then my work as a teacher is a failure. If their
conduct is less efficient, then my work is not only a failure,--it is a
catastrophe. The knowledge that I impart may be absolutely true; the
interest that I arouse may be intense; the affection that my pupils have
for me may be genuine; but all these are but means to an end, and if the
end is not attained, the means have been futile.

We have faith that the materials which we pour in at the hopper of sense
impression will come out sooner or later at the spout of reaction,
transformed by some mysterious process into efficient conduct. While the
machinery of the process, like the mills of the gods, certainly grinds
slowly, it is some consolation to believe that, at any rate, it _does_
grind; and we are perhaps fain to believe that the exceeding fineness of
the grist is responsible for our failure to detect at the spout all of
the elements that we have been so careful to pour in at the hopper. What
I should like to do is to examine this grinding process rather
carefully,--to gain, if possible, some definite notion of the kind of
grist we should like to produce, and then to see how the machinery may
be made to produce this grist, and in what proportions we must mix the
material that we pour into the hopper in order to gain the desired

I have said that we must ask of every subject that we teach, How does
it influence conduct? Now when we ask this question concerning history a
variety of answers are at once proposed. One group of people will assert
that the facts of history have value because they can be directly
applied to the needs of contemporary life. History, they will tell us,
records the experiences of the race, and if we are to act intelligently
we must act upon the basis of this experience. History informs us of the
mistakes that former generations have made in adjusting themselves to
the world. If we know history, we can avoid these mistakes. This type of
reasoning may be said to ascribe a utilitarian value to the study of
history. It assumes that historical knowledge is directly and
immediately applicable to vital problems of the present day.

Now the difficulty with this value, as with many others that seem to
have the sanction of reason, is that it does not possess the sanction of
practical test. While knowledge doubtless affects in some way the
present policy of our own government, it would be very hard to prove
that the influence is in any way a direct influence. It is extremely
doubtful whether the knowledge that the voters have of the history of
their country will be recalled and applied at the ballot box next
November. I do not say that the study of history that has been going on
in the common schools for a generation will be entirely without effect
upon the coming election. I simply maintain that this influence will be
indirect,--but I believe that it will be none the less profound. One's
vote at the next election will be determined largely by immediate and
present conditions. But the way in which one interprets these conditions
cannot help being profoundly influenced by one's historical study or
lack of such study.

If it is clear, then, that the study of history cannot be justified upon
a purely utilitarian basis, we may pass to the consideration of other
values that have been proposed. The specialist in history, whose right
to legislate upon this matter I have just called into question, will
probably emphasize the disciplinary value of this study. Specialists are
commonly enthusiastic over the disciplinary value of their special
subjects. Their own minds have been so well developed by the pursuit of
their special branches that they are impelled to recommend the same
discipline for all minds. Again, we must not blame the specialist in
history, for you and I think the same about our own special type of

From the disciplinary point of view, the study of history is supposed to
give one the mastery of a special method of reasoning. Historical method
involves, above all else, the careful sifting of evidence, the minutest
scrutiny of sources in order to judge whether or not the records are
authentic, and the utmost care in coming to conclusions. Now it will be
generally agreed that these are desirable types of skill to possess
whether one is an historian or a lawyer or a teacher or a man of
business. And yet, as in all types of discipline, the difficulty lies,
not so much in acquiring the specific skill, as in transferring the
skill thus acquired to other fields of activity. Skill of any sort is
made up of a multitude of little specific habits, and it is a current
theory that habit functions effectively only in the specific situation
in which it has been built up, or in situations closely similar. But
whether this is true or not it is obvious that the teaching of
elementary history provides very few opportunities for this type of

A third view of the way in which historical knowledge is thought to work
into action may be discussed under the head of the cultural value.
History, like literature, is commonly assumed to give to the individual
who studies it, a certain amount of that commodity which the world calls
culture. Precisely what culture consists in, no one, apparently, is
ready to tell us, but we all admit that it is real, if not tangible and
definable, nor can we deny that the individual who possesses culture
conducts himself, as a rule, differently from the individual who does
not possess it. In other words, culture is a practical thing, for the
only things that are practical are the things that modify or control
human action.

It is doubtless true that the study of history does add to this
intangible something that we call "culture," but the difficulty with
this value lies in the fact that, even after we have accepted it as
valid, we are in no way better off regarding our methods. Like many
other theories, its truth is not to be denied, but its truth gives us no
inkling of a solution of our problem. What we need is an educational
value of history, the recognition of which will enable us to formulate a
method for realizing the value.


The unsatisfactory character of these three values that have been
proposed for history--the utilitarian, the disciplinary, and the
cultural--is typical of the values that have been proposed for other
subjects. Unless the aim of teaching any given subject can be stated in
definite terms, the teacher must work very largely in the dark; his
efforts must be largely of the "hit-or-miss" order. The desired value
may be realized under these conditions, but, if it is realized, it is
manifestly through accident, not through intelligent design. It is
needless to point out the waste that such a blundering and haphazard
adjustment entails. We all know how much of our teaching fails to hit
the mark, even when we are clear concerning the result that we desire;
we can only conjecture how much of the remainder fails of effect because
we are hazy and obscure concerning its purpose.

Let us return to our original basic principle and see what light it may
throw upon our problem. We have said that the efficiency of teaching
must always be measured by the degree in which the pupil's conduct is
modified. Taking conduct as our base, then, let us reason back and see
what factors control conduct, and, if possible, how these "controls" may
be influenced by the processes of education working through the lesson
in history.

I shall start with a very simple and apparently trivial example. When I
was living in the Far West, I came to know something of the Chinese, who
are largely engaged, as you know, in domestic service in that part of
the country. Most of the Chinese servants that I met corresponded very
closely with what we read concerning Chinese character. We have all
heard of the Chinese servant's unswerving adherence to a routine that he
has once established. They say in the West that when a housewife gives
her Chinese servant an object lesson in the preparation of a certain
dish, she must always be very careful to make her demonstration perfect
the first time. If, inadvertently, she adds one egg too many, she will
find that, in spite of her protestations, the superfluous egg will
always go into that preparation forever afterward. From what I know of
the typical Oriental, I am sure that this warning is not overdrawn.

Now here is a bit of conduct, a bit of adjustment, that characterizes
the Chinese cook. Not only that, but, in a general way, it is peculiar
to all Chinese, and hence may be called a national trait. We might call
it a vigorous national prejudice in favor of precedent. But whatever we
call it, it is a very dominant force in Chinese life. It is the trait
that, perhaps more than any other, distinguishes Chinese conduct from
European or American conduct. Now one might think this trait to be
instinctive,--to be bred in the bone rather than acquired,--but this I
am convinced is not altogether true. At least one Chinese whom I knew
did not possess it at all. He was born on a western ranch and his
parents died soon after his birth. He was brought up with the children
of the ranch owner, and is now a prosperous rancher himself. He lacks
every characteristic that we commonly associate with the Chinese, save
only the physical features. His hair is straight, his skin is saffron,
his eyes are slightly aslant,--but that is all. As far as his conduct
goes,--and that is the essential thing,--he is an American. In other
words, his traits, his tendencies to action, are American and not
Chinese. His life represents the triumph of environment over heredity.

When you visit England you find yourselves among a people who speak the
same language that you speak,--or, perhaps it would be better to say,
somewhat the same; at least you can understand each other. In a great
many respects, the Englishman and the American are similar in their
traits, but in a great many other respects they differ radically. You
cannot, from your knowledge of American traits, judge what an
Englishman's conduct will be upon every occasion. If you happened on
Piccadilly of a rainy morning, for example, you would see the English
clerks and storekeepers and professional men riding to their work on the
omnibuses that thread their way slowly through the crowded thoroughfare.
No matter how rainy the morning, these men would be seated on the tops
of the omnibuses, although the interior seats might be quite unoccupied.
No matter how rainy the morning, many of these men would be faultlessly
attired in top hats and frock coats, and there they would sit through
the drizzling rain, protecting themselves most inadequately with their
opened umbrellas. Now there is a bit of conduct that you cannot find
duplicated in any American city. It is a national habit,--or, perhaps,
it would be better to say, it is an expression of a national trait,--and
that national trait is a prejudice in favor of convention. It is the
thing to do, and the typical Englishman does it, just as, when he is
sent as civil governor to some lonely outpost in India, with no
companions except scantily clad native servants, he always dresses
conscientiously for dinner and sits down to his solitary meal clad in
the conventional swallow-tail coat of civilization.

Now the way in which a Chinese cook prepares a custard, or the way in
which an English merchant rides in an omnibus, may be trivial and
unimportant matters in themselves, and yet, like the straw that shows
which way the wind blows, they are indicative of vast and profound
currents. The conservatism of the Chinese empire is only a larger and
more comprehensive expression of the same trait or prejudice that leads
the cook to copy literally his model. The present educational situation
in England is only another expression of that same prejudice in favor of
the established order, which finds expression in the merchant on the
Piccadilly omnibus.

Whenever you pass from one country to another you will find this
difference in tendencies to action. In Germany, for example, you will
find something that amounts almost to a national fervor for economy and
frugality. You will find it expressing itself in the care with which the
German housewife does her marketing. You will find it expressing itself
in the intensive methods of agriculture, through which scarcely a square
inch of arable land is permitted to lie fallow,--through which, for
example, even the shade trees by the roadside furnish fruit as well as
shade, and are annually rented for their fruit value to industrious
members of the community,--and it is said in one section of Germany that
the only people known to steal fruit from these trees along the lonely
country roads are American tourists, who, you will see, also have their
peculiar standards of conduct. You will find this same fervor for
frugality and economy expressing itself most extensively in that
splendid forest policy by means of which the German states have
conserved their magnificent timber resources.

But, whatever its expression, it is the same trait,--a trait born of
generations of struggle with an unyielding soil, and yet a trait which,
combined with the German fervor for science and education, has made
possible the marvelous progress that Germany has made within the last
half century.

What do we mean by national traits? Simply this: prejudices or
tendencies toward certain typical forms of conduct, common to a given
people. It is this community of conduct that constitutes a nation. A
country whose people have different standards of action must be a
divided country, as our own American history sufficiently demonstrates.
Unless upon the vital questions of human adjustment, men are able to
agree, they cannot live together in peace. If we are a distinctive and
unique nation,--if we hold a distinctive and unique place among the
nations of the globe,--it is because you and I and the other inhabitants
of our country have developed distinctive and unique ideals and
prejudices and standards, all of which unite to produce a community of
conduct. And once granting that our national characteristics are worth
while, that they constitute a distinct advance over the characteristics
of the other nations of the earth, it becomes the manifest duty of the
school to do its share in perpetuating these ideals and prejudices and
standards. Once let these atrophy through disuse, once let them fail of
transmission because of the decay of the home, or the decay of the
school, or the decay of the social institutions that typify and express
them, and our country must go the way of Greece and Rome, and, although
our blood may thereafter continue pure and unmixed, and our physical
characteristics may be passed on from generation to generation unchanged
in form, our nation will be only a memory, and its history ancient
history. Some of the Greeks of to-day are the lineal descendants of the
Athenians and Spartans, but the ancient Greek standards of conduct, the
Greek ideals, died twenty centuries ago, to be resurrected, it is true,
by the renaissance, and to enjoy the glorious privilege of a new and
wider sphere of life,--but among an alien people, and under a northern

And so the true aim of the study of history in the elementary school is
not the realization of its utilitarian, its cultural, or its
disciplinary value. It is not a mere assimilation of facts concerning
historical events, nor the memorizing of dates, nor the picturing of
battles, nor the learning of lists of presidents,--although each of
these factors has its place in fulfilling the function of historical
study. The true function of national history in our elementary schools
is to establish in the pupils' minds those ideals and standards of
action which differentiate the American people from the rest of the
world, and especially to fortify these ideals and standards by a
description of the events and conditions through which they developed.
It is not the facts of history that are to be applied to the problems of
life; it is rather the emotional attitude, the point of view, that comes
not from memorizing, but from appreciating, the facts. A mere fact has
never yet had a profound influence over human conduct. A principle that
is accepted by the head and not by the heart has never yet stained a
battle field nor turned the tide of a popular election. Men act, not as
they think, but as they feel, and it is not the idea, but the ideal,
that is important in history.


But what are the specific ideals and standards for which our nation
stands and which distinguish, in a very broad but yet explicit manner,
our conduct from the conduct of other peoples? If we were to ask this
question of an older country, we could more easily obtain an answer, for
in the older countries the national ideals have, in many cases, reached
an advanced point of self-consciousness. The educational machinery of
the German empire, for example, turns upon this problem of impressing
the national ideals. It is one aim of the official courses of study, for
instance, that history shall be so taught that the pupils will gain an
overweening reverence for the reigning house of Hohenzollern. Nor is
that newer ideal of national unity which had its seed sown in the
Franco-Prussian War in any danger of neglect by the watchful eye of the
government. Not only must the teacher impress it upon every occasion,
but every attempt is also made to bring it daily fresh to the minds of
the people through great monuments and memorials. Scarcely a hamlet is
so small that it does not possess its Bismarck _Denkmal_, often situated
upon some commanding hill, telling to each generation, in the sublime
poetry of form, the greatness of the man who made German unity a reality
instead of a dream.

But in our country, we do not thus consciously formulate and express our
national ideals. We recognize them rather with averted face as the
adolescent boy recognizes any virtue that he may possess, as if
half-ashamed of his weakness. We have monuments to our heroes, it is
true, but they are often inaccessible, and as often they fail to convey
in any adequate manner, the greatness of the lessons which the lives of
these heroes represent. Where Germany has a hundred or more impressive
memorials to the genius of Bismarck, we have but one adequate memorial
to the genius of Washington, while for Lincoln, who represents the
typical American standards of life and conduct more faithfully than any
other one character in our history, we have no memorial that is at all
adequate,--and we should have a thousand. Some day our people will awake
to the possibilities that inhere in these palpable expressions of the
impalpable things for which our country stands. We shall come to
recognize the vast educative importance of perpetuating, in every
possible way, the deep truths that have been established at the cost of
so much blood and treasure.

To embody our national ideals in the personages of the great figures of
history who did so much to establish them is the most elementary method
of insuring their conservation and transmission. We are beginning to
appreciate the value of this method in our introductory courses of
history in the intermediate and lower grammar grades. The historical
study outlined for these grades in most of our state and city school
programs includes mainly biographical materials. As long as the purpose
of this study is kept steadily in view by the teacher, its value may be
very richly realized. The danger lies in an obscure conception of the
purpose. We are always too prone to teach history didactically, and to
teach biographical history didactically is to miss the mark entirely.
The aim here is not primarily instruction, but inspiration; not merely
learning, but also appreciation. To tell the story of Lincoln's life in
such a way that its true value will be realized requires first upon the
part of the teacher a sincere appreciation of the great lesson of
Lincoln's life. Lincoln typifies the most significant and representative
of American ideals. His career stands for and illustrates the greatest
of our national principles,--the principle of equality,--not the
equality of birth, not the equality of social station, but the equality
of opportunity. That a child of the lowliest birth, reared under
conditions apparently the most unfavorable for rich development, limited
by the sternest poverty, by lack of formal education, by lack of family
pride and traditions, by lack of an environment of culture, by the hard
necessity of earning his own livelihood almost from earliest
childhood,--that such a man should attain to the highest station in the
land and the proudest eminence in its history, and should have acquired
from the apparently unfavorable environment of his early life the very
qualities that made him so efficient in that station and so permanent in
that eminence,--this is a miracle that only America could produce. It is
this conception that the teacher must have, and this he must, in some
measure, impress upon his pupils.


In the teaching of history in the elementary school, the biographical
treatment is followed in the later grammar grades by a systematic study
of the main events of American history. Here the method is different,
but the purpose is the same. This purpose is, I take it, to show how our
ideals and standards have developed, through what struggles and
conflicts they have become firmly established; and the aim must be to
have our pupils relive, as vividly as possible, the pain and the
struggles and the striving and the triumph, to the end that they may
appreciate, however feebly, the heritage that is theirs.

Here again it is not the facts as such that are important, but the
emotional appreciation of the facts, and to this end, the coloring must
be rich, the pictures vivid, the contrasts sharply drawn. The successful
teacher of history has the gift of making real the past. His pupils
struggle with Columbus against a frightened, ignorant, mutinous crew;
they toil with the Pilgrim fathers to conquer the wilderness; they
follow the bloody trail of the Deerfield victims through the forest to
Canada; they too resist the encroachments of the Mother Country upon
their rights as English citizens; they suffer through the long winter at
Valley Forge and join with Washington in his midnight vigils; they
rejoice at Yorktown; they dream with Jefferson and plead with Webster;
their hearts are fired with the news of Sumter; they clinch their teeth
at Bull Run; they gather hope at Donelson, but they shudder at Shiloh;
they struggle through the Wilderness with Grant; tired but triumphant,
they march home from Appomattox; and through it all, in virtue of the
limitless capacities of vicarious experience, they have shared the
agonies of Lincoln.

Professor Mace, in his essay on _Method in History_, tells us that there
are two distinct phases to every historical event. These are the event
itself and the human feeling that brought it forth. It has seemed to me
that there are three phases,--the event itself, the feeling that brought
it forth, and the feeling to which it gave birth; for no event is
historically important unless it has transformed in some way the ideals
and standards of the people,--unless it has shifted, in some way, their
point of view, and made them act differently from the way in which they
would have acted had the event never occurred. One leading purpose in
the teaching of history is to show how ideals have been transformed, how
we have come to have standards different from those that were once held.

Many of our national ideals have their roots deep down in English
history. Not long ago I heard a seventh-grade class discussing the Magna
Charta. It was a class in American history, and yet the events that the
pupils had been studying occurred three centuries before the discovery
of America. They had become familiar with the long list of abuses that
led to the granting of the charter. They could tell very glibly what
this great document did for the English people. They traced in detail
the subsequent events that led to the establishment of the House of
Commons. All this was American history just as truly as if the events
described had occurred on American soil. They were gaining an
appreciation of one of the most fundamental of our national ideals,--the
ideal of popular government. And not only that, but they were studying
popular government in its simplest form, uncomplicated by the
innumerable details and the elaborate organizations which characterize
popular government to-day.

And when these pupils come to the time when this ideal of
self-government was transplanted to American soil, they will be ready to
trace with intelligence the changes that it took on. They will
appreciate the marked influence which geographical conditions exert in
shaping national standards of action. How richly American history
reveals and illustrates this influence we are only just now beginning to
appreciate. The French and the English colonists developed different
types of national character partly because they were placed under
different geographical conditions. The St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes
gave the French an easy means of access into the vast interior of the
continent, and provided innumerable temptations to exploitation rather
than a few incentives to development. Where the French influence was
dispersed over a wide territory, the English influence was concentrated.
As a consequence, the English energy went to the development of
resources that were none too abundant, and to the establishment of
permanent institutions that would conserve these resources. The barrier
of the Appalachians hemmed them in,--three hundred miles of alternate
ridge and valley kept them from the West until they were numerically
able to settle rather than to exploit this country. Not a little credit
for the ultimate English domination of the continent must be given to
these geographical conditions.

But geography does not tell the whole story. The French colonists
differed from the English colonists from the outset in standards of
conduct. They had brought with them the principle of paternalism, and,
in time of trouble, they looked to France for support. The English
colonists brought with them the principle of self-reliance and, in time
of trouble, they looked only to themselves. And so the old English
ideals had a new birth and a broader field of application on American
soil. There is nothing finer in our country's history than the attitude
of the New England colonists during the intercolonial wars. Their
northern frontier covering two hundred miles of unprotected territory
was constantly open to the incursions of the French from Canada and
their Indian allies, to appease whom the French organized their raids.
And yet, so deeply implanted was this ideal of self-reliance that New
England scarcely thought of asking aid of the mother country and would
have protested to the last against the permanent establishment of a
military garrison within her limits. For a period extending over fifty
years, New England protected her own borders. She felt the terrors of
savage warfare in its most sanguinary forms. And yet, uncomplaining, she
taxed herself to repel the invaders. The people loved their own
independence too much to part with it, even for the sake of peace,
prosperity, and security. At a later date, unknown to the mother
country, they raised and equipped from their own young men and at their
own expense, the punitive expedition that, in the face of seemingly
certain defeat, captured the French fortress at Louisburg, and gave to
English military annals one of its most brilliant victories. To get the
pupil to live through these struggles, to feel the impetus of idealism
upon conduct, to appreciate what that almost forgotten half-century of
conflict meant to the development of our national character, would be to
realize the greatest value that colonial history can have for its
students. It lays bare the source of that strength which made New
England preëminent in the Revolution, and which has placed the mint mark
of New England idealism upon the coin of American character. Could a
pupil who has lived vicariously through such experiences as these easily
forsake principle for policy?

A newspaper cartoon published a year or so ago, gives some notion of the
danger that we are now facing of losing that idealism upon which our
country was founded. The cartoon represents the signing of the
Declaration of Independence. The worthies are standing about the table
dressed in the knee breeches and flowing coats of the day, with wigs
conventionally powdered and that stately bearing which characterizes the
typical historical painting. John Hancock is seated at the table
prepared to make his name immortal. A figure, however, has just
appeared in the doorway. It is the cartoonist's conventional conception
of the modern Captain of Industry. His silk hat is on the back of his
head as if he had just come from his office as fast as his
forty-horse-power automobile could carry him. His portly form shows
evidences of intense excitement. He is holding his hand aloft to stay
the proceedings, while from his lips comes the stage whisper:
"Gentlemen, stop! You will hurt business!" What would those old New
England fathers think, could they know that such a conception may be
taken as representing a well-recognized tendency of the present day? And
remember, too, that those old heroes had something of a passion for
trade themselves.

But when we seek for the source of our most important national
ideal,--the ideal that we have called equality of opportunity,--we must
look to another part of the country. The typical Americanism that is
represented by Lincoln owes its origin, I believe, very largely to
geographical factors. It could have been developed only under certain
conditions and these conditions the Middle West alone provided. The
settling of the Middle West in the latter part of the eighteenth and the
early part of the nineteenth centuries was part and parcel of a rigid
logic of events. As Miss Semple so clearly points out in her work on the
geographic conditions of American history, the Atlantic seaboard sloped
toward the sea and its people held their faces eastward. They were never
cut off from easy communication with the Old World, and consequently
they were never quite freed from the Old World prejudices and standards.
But the movement across the mountains gave rise to a new condition. The
faces of the people were turned westward, and cut off from easy
communication with the Old World, they developed a new set of ideals and
standards under the stress of new conditions. Chief among these
conditions was the immensity and richness of the territory that they
were settling. The vastness of their outlook and the wealth of their
resources confirmed and extended the ideals of self-reliance that they
had brought with them from the seaboard. But on the seaboard, the Old
World notion of social classes, the prestige of family and station,
still held sway. The development of the Middle West would have been
impossible under so severe a handicap. With resources so great, every
stimulus must be given to individual achievement. Nothing must be
permitted to stand in its way. The man who could do things, the man who
could most effectively turn the forces of nature to serve the needs of
society, was the man who was selected for preferment, no matter what his
birth, no matter what the station of his family.

We might, in a similar fashion, review the various other ideals, which
have grown out of our history, but, as I have said, my purpose is not
historical but educational, and the illustrations that I have given may
suffice to make my contention clear. I have attempted to show that the
chief purpose of the study of history in the elementary school is to
establish and fortify in the pupils' minds the significant ideals and
standards of conduct which those who have gone before us have gleaned
from their experience. I have maintained that, to this end, it is not
only the facts of history that are important, but the appreciation of
these facts. I have maintained that these prejudices and ideals have a
profound influence upon conduct, and that, consequently, history is to
be looked upon as a most practical branch of study.

       *       *       *       *       *

The best way in this world to be definite is to know our goal and then
strive to attain it. In the lack of definite standards based upon the
lessons of the past, our dominant national ideals shift with every
shifting wind of public sentiment and popular demand. Are we satisfied
with the individualistic and self-centered idealism that has come with
our material prosperity and which to-day shames the memory of the men
who founded our Republic? Are we negligent of the serious menace that
confronts any people when it loses its hold upon those goods of life
that are far more precious than commercial prestige and individual
aggrandizement? Are we losing our hold upon the sterner virtues which
our fathers possessed,--upon the things of the spirit that are permanent
and enduring?

A study of history cannot determine entirely the dominant ideals of
those who pursue it. But the study of history if guided in the proper
spirit and dominated by the proper aim may help. For no one who gets
into the spirit of our national history,--no one who traces the origin
and growth of these ideals and institutions that I have named,--can
escape the conviction that the elemental virtues of courage,
self-reliance, hardihood, unselfishness, self-denial, and service lie at
the basis of every forward step that this country has made, and that the
most precious part of our heritage is not the material comforts with
which we are surrounded, but the sturdy virtues which made these
comforts possible.


[Footnote 15: An address delivered March 18, 1910, before the Central
Illinois Teachers' Association.]



The scientific method is the method of unprejudiced observation and
induction. Its function in the scheme of life is to furnish man with
facts and principles,--statements which mirror with accuracy and
precision the conditions that may exist in any situation of any sort
which man may have to face. In other words, the facts of science are
important and worthy because they help us to solve the problems of life
more satisfactorily. They are instrumental in their function. They are
means to an end. And whenever we have a problem to solve, whenever we
face a situation that demands some form of adjustment, the more accurate
the information that we possess concerning this situation, the better we
shall be able to solve it.

Now when I propose that we try to find out some facts about the teaching
of English, and that we apply the scientific method in the discovery of
these facts, I am immediately confronted with an objection. My opponent
will maintain that the subject of English in our school curriculum is
not one of the sciences. Taking English to mean particularly English
literature rather than rhetoric or composition or grammar, it is clear
that we do not teach literature as we teach the sciences. Its function
differs from that of science in the curriculum. If there is a science of
literature, that is not what we are teaching in the secondary schools,
and that is not what most of us believe should be taught in the
secondary schools. We think that the study of literature should transmit
to each generation the great ideals that are crystallized in literary
masterpieces. And we think that, in seeing to it that our pupils are
inspired with these ideals, we should also teach literature in such a
way that our pupils will be left with a desire to read good literature
as a source of recreation and inspiration after they have finished the
courses that we offer. When I speak of "inspiration," "appreciation,"
the development of "taste," and the like, I am using terms that have
little direct relation to the scientific method; for, as I have said,
science deals with facts, and the harder and more stubborn and more
unyielding the facts become, the better they represent true science.
What right have I, then, to speak of the scientific study of the
teaching of English, when science and literature seem to belong to two
quite separate rubrics of mental life?

I refer to this point of view, not because its inconsistencies are not
fully apparent to you even upon the surface, but because it is a point
of view that has hitherto interfered very materially with our
educational progress. It has sometimes been assumed that, because we
wish to study education scientifically, we wish to read out of it
everything that cannot be reduced to a scientific formula,--that,
somehow or other, we intend still further to intellectualize the
processes of education and to neglect the tremendous importance of those
factors that are not primarily intellectual in their nature, but which
belong rather to the field of emotion and feeling.

I wish, therefore, to say at the outset that, while I firmly believe the
hope of education to lie in the application of the scientific method to
the solution of its problems, I still hold that neither facts nor
principles nor any other products of the scientific method are the most
important "goods" of life. The greatest "goods" in life are, and always
must remain, I believe, its ideals, its visions, its insights, and its
sympathies,--must always remain those qualities with which the teaching
of literature is primarily concerned, and in the engendering of which in
the hearts and souls of his pupils, the teacher of literature finds the
greatest opportunity that is vouchsafed to any teacher.

The facts and principles that science has given us have been of such
service to humanity that we are prone to forget that they have been of
service because they have helped us more effectively to realize our
ideals and attain our ends; and we are prone to forget also that,
without the ideals and the ends and the visions, the facts and
principles would be quite without function. I have sometimes been taken
to account for separating these two factors in this way. But unless we
do distinguish sharply between them, our educational thinking is bound
to be hopelessly obscure.

You have all heard the story of the great chemist who was at work in his
laboratory when word was brought him that his wife was dead. As the
first wave of anguish swept over him, he bowed his head upon his hands
and wept out his grief; but suddenly he lifted up his head, and held
before him his hands wet with tears. "Tears!" he cried; "what are they?
I have analyzed them: a little chloride of sodium, some alkaline salts,
a little mucin, and some water. That is all." And he went back to his

The story is an old one, and very likely apocryphal, but it is not
without its lesson to us in the present connection. Unless we
distinguish between these two factors that I have named, we are likely
either to take this man's attitude or something approaching it, or to go
to the other extreme, renounce the accuracy and precision of the
scientific method, and give ourselves up to the cult of emotionalism.

Now, while we do not wish to read out of the teaching of literature the
factors of appreciation and inspiration, we do wish to find out how
these important functions of our teaching may be best fulfilled. And it
is here that facts and principles gained by the scientific method not
only can but must furnish the ultimate solution. We have a problem. That
problem, it is true, is concerned with something that is not scientific,
and to attempt to make it scientific is to kill the very life that it is
our problem to cherish. But in solving that problem, we must take
certain steps; we must arrange our materials in certain ways; we must
adjust hard and stubborn facts to the attainment of our end. What are
these facts? What is their relation to our problem? What laws govern
their operation? These are subordinate but very essential parts of our
larger problem, and it is through the scientific investigation of these
subordinate problems that our larger problem is to be solved.

Let me give you an illustration of what I mean. We may assume that every
boy who goes out of the high school should appreciate the meaning and
worth of self-sacrifice as this is revealed (not expounded) in Dickens's
delineation of the character of Sidney Carton. There is our
problem,--but what a host of subordinate problems at once confront us!
Where shall we introduce _The Tale of Two Cities_? Will it be in the
second year, or the third, or the fourth? Will it be best preceded by
the course in general history which will give the pupil a time
perspective upon the crimson background of the French Revolution against
which Dickens projected his master character? Or shall we put _The Tale
of Two Cities_ first for the sake of the heightened interest which the
art of the novelist may lend to the facts of the historian? Again, how
may the story be best presented? What part shall the pupils read in
class? What part shall they read at home? What part, if any, shall we
read to them? What questions are necessary to insure appreciation? How
many of the allusions need be run down in order to give the maximal
effect of the masterpiece? How may the necessarily discontinuous
discussions of the class--one period each day for several days--be so
counteracted as to insure the cumulative emotional effect which the
appreciation of all art presupposes? Should the story be sketched
through first, and then read in some detail, or will one reading

These are problems, I repeat, that stand to the chief problem as means
stand to end. Now some of these questions must be solved by every
teacher for himself, but that does not prevent each teacher from solving
them scientifically. Others, it is clear, might be solved once and for
all by the right kind of an investigation,--might result in permanent
and universal laws which any one could apply.

There are, of course, several ways in which answers for these questions
may be secured. One way is that of _a priori_ reasoning,--the deductive
procedure. This method may be thoroughly scientific, depending of course
upon the validity of our general principles as applied to the specific
problem. Ordinarily this validity can be determined only by trial;
consequently these _a priori_ inferences should be looked upon as
hypotheses to be tested by trial under standard conditions. For example,
I might argue that _The Tale of Two Cities_ should be placed in the
third year because the emotional ferment of adolescence is then most
favorable for the engendering of the ideal. But in the first place, this
assumed principle would itself be subject to grave question and it would
also have to be determined whether there is so little variation among
the pupils in respect of physiological age as to permit the application
to all of a generalization that might conceivably apply only to the
average child. In other words, all of our generalizations applying to
average pupils must be applied with a knowledge of the extent and range
of variation from the average. Some people say that there is no such
thing as an average child, but, for all practical purposes, the average
child is a very real reality,--he is, in fact, more numerous than any
other single class; but this does not mean that there may be not enough
variations from the average to make unwise the application of our

I refer to this hypothetical case to show the extreme difficulty of
reaching anything more than hypotheses by _a priori_ reasoning. We have
a certain number of fairly well established general principles in
secondary education. Perhaps those most frequently employed are our
generalizations regarding adolescence and its influences upon the mental
and especially the emotional life of high-school pupils. Stanley Hall's
work in this field is wonderfully stimulating and suggestive, and yet we
should not forget that most of his generalizations are, after all, only
plausible hypotheses to be acted upon as tentative guides for practice
and to be tested carefully under controlled conditions, rather than to
be accepted as immutable and unchangeable laws. We sometimes assume that
all high-school pupils are adolescents, when the likelihood is that an
appreciable proportion of pupils in the first two years have not yet
reached this important node of their development.

I say this not to minimize in any way the importance that attaches to
adolescent characteristics, but rather to suggest that you who are daily
dealing with these pupils can in the aggregate add immeasurably to the
knowledge that we now have concerning this period. A tremendous waste is
constantly going on in that most precious of all our possible
resources,--namely, human experience. How many problems that are well
solved have to be solved again and again because the experience has not
been crystallized in a well-tested fact or principle; how many
experiences that might be well worth the effort that they cost are quite
worthless because, in undergoing them, we have neglected some one or
another of the rules that govern inexorably the validity of our
inferences and conclusions. That is all that the scientific method means
in the last analysis: it is a system of principles that enable us to
make our experience worth while in meeting later situations. We all
have the opportunity of contributing to the sum total of human
knowledge, if only we know the rules of the game.

I said that one way of solving these subordinate problems that arise in
the realization of our chief aims in teaching is the _a priori_ method
of applying general principles to the problems. Another method is to
imitate the way in which we have seen some one else handle the
situation. Now this may be the most effective way possible. In fact, if
a sufficient number of generations of teachers keep on blindly plunging
in and floundering about in solving their problems, the most effective
methods will ultimately be evolved through what we call the process of
trial and error. The teaching of the very oldest subjects in the
curriculum is almost always the best and most effective teaching, for
the very reason that the blundering process has at last resulted in an
effective procedure. But the scientific method of solving problems has
its very function in preventing the tremendous waste that this process
involves. English literature is a comparatively recent addition to the
secondary curriculum. Its possibilities of service are almost unlimited.
Shall we wait for ten or fifteen generations of teachers to blunder out
the most effective means of teaching it, or shall we avail ourselves of
these simple principles which will enable us to concentrate this
experience within one or two generations?

I should like to emphasize one further point. No one has greater
respect than I have for what we term experience in teaching. But let me
say that a great deal of what we may term "crude" experience--that is,
experience that has not been refined by the application of scientific
method--is most untrustworthy,--unless, indeed, it has been garnered and
winnowed and sifted through the ages. Let me give you an example of some
accepted dictums of educational experience that controlled
investigations have shown to be untrustworthy.

It is a general impression among teachers that specific habits may be
generalized; that habits of neatness and accuracy developed in one line
of work, for example, will inevitably make one neater and more accurate
in other things. It has been definitely proved that this transfer of
training does not take place inevitably, but in reality demands the
fulfillment of certain conditions of which education has become fully
conscious only within a comparatively short time, and as a result of
careful, systematic, controlled experimentation. The meaning of this in
the prevention of waste through inadequate teaching is fully apparent.

Again, it has been supposed by many teachers that the home environment
is a large factor in the success or failure of a pupil in school. In
every accurate and controlled investigation that has been conducted so
far it has been shown that this factor in such subjects as arithmetic
and spelling at least is so small as to be absolutely negligible in

Some people still believe that a teacher is born and not made, and yet
a careful investigation of the efficiency of elementary teachers shows
that, when such teachers were ranked by competent judges, specialized
training stood out as the most important factor in general efficiency.
In this same investigation, the time-honored notion that a college
education will, irrespective of specialized training, adequately equip a
teacher for his work was revealed as a fallacy,--for twenty-eight per
cent of the normal-school graduates among all the teachers were in the
first and second ranks of efficiency as against only seventeen per cent
of the college graduates; while, in the two lowest ranks, only sixteen
per cent of the normal-school graduates are to be found as against
forty-four per cent of the college graduates. These investigations, I
may add, were made by university professors, and I am giving them here
in a university classroom and as a university representative. And of
course I shall hasten to add that general scholarship is one important
essential. Our mistake has been in assuming sometimes that it is the
only essential.

Very frequently the controlled experience of scientific investigation
confirms a principle that has been derived from crude experience. Most
teachers will agree, for example, that a certain amount of drill and
repetition is absolutely essential in the mastery of any subject. Every
time that scientific investigation has touched this problem it has
unmistakably confirmed this belief. Some very recent investigations
made by Mr. Brown at the Charleston Normal School show conclusively that
five-minute drill periods preceding every lesson in arithmetic place
pupils who undergo such periods far in advance of others who spend this
time in non-drill arithmetical work, and that this improvement holds not
only in the number habits, but also in the reasoning processes.

Other similar cases could be cited, but I have probably said enough to
make my point, and my point is this: that crude experience is an unsafe
guide for practice; that experience may be refined in two ways--first by
the slow, halting, wasteful operation of time, which has established
many principles upon a pinnacle of security from which they will never
be shaken, but which has also accomplished this result at the cost of
innumerable mistakes, blunders, errors, futile efforts, and
heartbreaking failures; or secondly, by the application of the
principles of control and test which are now at our service, and which
permit present-day teachers to concentrate within a single generation
the growth and development and progress that the empirical method of
trial and error could not encompass in a millennium.

The teaching of English merits treatment by this method. I recommend
strongly that you give the plan a trial. You may not get immediate
results. You may not get valuable results. But in any case, if you
carefully respect the scientific proprieties, your experience will be
worth vastly more than ten times the amount of crude experience; and,
whether you get results or not, you will undergo a valuable discipline
from which may emerge the ideals of science if you are not already
imbued with them. I always tell my students that, even in the study of
science itself, it is the ideals of science,--the ideals of patient,
thoughtful work, the ideals of open-mindedness and caution in reaching
conclusions, the ideals of unprejudiced observation from which
selfishness and personal desire are eliminated,--it is these ideals that
are vastly more important than the facts of science as such,--and these
latter are significant enough to have made possible our present progress
and our present amenities of life.


[Footnote 16: A paper read before the English Section of the University
of Illinois High School Conference, November 17, 1910.]



Wandering about in a circle through a thick forest is perhaps an
overdrawn analogy to our activity in attempting to construct educational
theories; and yet there is a resemblance. We push out hopefully--and
often boastfully--into the unknown wilderness, absolutely certain that
we are pioneering a trail that will later become the royal highway to
learning. We struggle on, ruthlessly using the hatchet and the ax to
clear the road before us. And all too often we come back to our starting
point, having unwittingly described a perfect circle, instead of the
straight line that we had anticipated.

But I am not a pessimist, and I like to believe that, although our
course frequently resembles a circle, it is much better to characterize
it as a spiral, and that, although we do get back to a point that we
recognize, it is not, after all, our old starting point; it is an
homologous point on a higher plane. We have at least climbed a little,
even if we have not traveled in a straight line.

Now in a figurative way this explains how we have come to take our
present attitude toward the problem of drill or training in the process
of education. Drill means the repetition of a process until it has
become mechanical or automatic. It means the kind of discipline that the
recruit undergoes in the army,--the making of a series of complicated
movements so thoroughly automatic that they will be gone through with
accurately and precisely, at the word of command. It means the sort of
discipline that makes certain activities machine-like in their
operation,--so that we do not have to think about which one comes next.
Thus the mind is relieved of the burden of looking after the innumerable
details and may use its precious energy for a more important purpose.

In every adult life, a large number of these mechanized responses are
absolutely essential to efficiency. Modern civilized life is so highly
organized that it demands a multitude of reactions and adjustments which
primitive life did not demand. It goes without saying that there are
innumerable little details of our daily work that must be reduced to the
plane of unvarying habit. These details vary with the trade or
profession of the individual; hence general education cannot hope to
supply the individual with all of the automatic responses that he will
need. But, in addition to these specialized responses, there is a large
mass of responses that are common to every member of the social group.
We must all be able to communicate with one another, both through the
medium of speech, and through the medium of written and printed symbols.
We live in a society that is founded upon the principle of the division
of labor. We must exchange the products of our labor for the necessities
of life that we do not ourselves produce, and hence arises the necessity
for the short cuts to counting and measurement which we call arithmetic.
And finally we must all live together in something at least approaching
harmony; hence the thousand and one little responses that mean courtesy
and good manners must be made thoroughly automatic.

Now education, from the very earliest times, has recognized the
necessity of building up these automatic responses,--of fixing these
essential habits in all individuals. This recognition has often been
short-sighted and sometimes even blind; but it has served to hold
education rather tenaciously to a process that all must admit to be

Drill or training, however, is unfortunate in one important particular.
It invariably involves repetition; and conscious, explicit repetition
tends to become monotonous. We must hold attention to the drill process,
and yet attention abhors monotony as nature abhors a vacuum.
Consequently no small part of the tedium and irksomeness of school work
has been due to its emphasis of drill. The formalism of the older
schools has been described, criticized, and lampooned in professional
literature, and even in the pages of fiction. The disastrous results
that follow from engendering in pupils a disgust for school and all that
it represents have been eloquently portrayed. Along with the tendency
toward ease and comfort in other departments of human life has gone a
parallel tendency to relieve the school of this odious burden of formal,
lifeless, repetitive work.

This "reform movement," as I shall call it, represents our first plunge
into the wilderness. We would get away from the entanglements of drill
and into the clearings of pleasurable, spontaneous activities. A new sun
of hope dawned upon the educational world.

You are all familiar with some of the more spectacular results of this
movement. You have heard of the schools that eliminated drill processes
altogether, and depended upon clear initial development to fix the facts
and formulæ and reactions that every one needs. You have heard and
perhaps seen some of the schools that were based entirely upon the
doctrine of spontaneity, governing their work by the principle that the
child should never do anything that he did not wish to do at the moment
of doing,--although the advocates of this theory generally qualified
their principle by insisting that the skillful teacher would have the
child wish to do the right thing all the time.

Let me describe to you a school of this type that I once visited. I
learned of it through a resident of the city in which it was located. He
was delivering an address before an educational gathering on the
problems of modern education. He told the audience that, in the schools
of this enlightened city, the antiquated notions that were so pernicious
had been entirely dispensed with. He said that pupils in these schools
were no longer repressed; that all regimentation, line passing, static
posture, and other barbaric practices had been abolished; that the
pupils were free to work out their own destiny, to realize themselves,
through all forms of constructive activity; that drills had been
eliminated; that corporal punishment was never even mentioned, much less
practiced; that all was harmony, and love, and freedom, and spontaneity.

I listened to this speaker with intense interest, and, as his picture
unfolded, I became more and more convinced that this city had at last
solved the problem. I took the earliest opportunity to visit its
schools. When I reached the city I went to the superintendent's office.
I asked to be directed to the best school. "Our schools are all 'best,'"
the secretary told me with an intonation that denoted commendable pride,
and which certainly made me feel extremely humble, for here even the
laws of logic and of formal grammar had been transcended. I made bold to
apologize, however, and amended my request to make it apparent that I
wished to see the largest school. I was directed to take a certain car
and, in due time, found myself at the school. I inferred that recess was
in progress when I reached the building, and that the recess was being
celebrated within doors. After some time spent in dodging about the
corridors, I at last located the principal.

I introduced myself and asked if I could visit his school after recess
was over. "We have no recesses here," he replied (I could just catch his
voice above the din of the corridors); "this is a relaxation period for
some of the classes." He led the way to the office, and I spent a few
moments in getting the "lay of the land." I asked him, first, whether he
agreed with the doctrines that the system represented, and he told me
that he believed in them implicitly. Did he follow them out consistently
in the operation of his school? Yes, he followed them out to the letter.

We then went to several classrooms, where I saw children realizing
themselves, I thought, very effectively. There were three groups at work
in each room. One recited to the teacher, another studied at the seats,
a third did construction work at the tables. I inquired about the
mechanics of this rather elaborate organization, but I was told that
mechanics had been eliminated from this school. Mechanical organization
of the classroom, it seems, crushes the child's spontaneity, represses
his self-activity, prevents the effective operation of the principle of
self-realization. How, then, did these three groups exchange places, for
I felt that the doctrine of self-realization would not permit them to
remain in the same employment during the entire session. "Oh," the
principal replied, "when they get ready to change, they change, that's

I saw that a change was coming directly, so I waited to watch it. The
group had been working with what I should call a great deal of noise and
confusion. All at once this increased tenfold. Pupils jumped over seats,
ran into each other in the aisles, scurried and scampered from this
place to that, while the teacher stood in the front of the room wildly
waving her arms. The performance lasted several minutes. "There's
spontaneity for you," the principal shouted above the roar of the storm.
I acquiesced by a nod of the head,--my lungs, through lack of training,
being unequal to the emergency.

We passed to another room. The same group system was in evidence. I
noticed pupils who had been working at their seats suddenly put away
their books and papers and skip over to the construction table. I asked
concerning the nature of the construction work. "We use it," the
principal told me, "as a reward for good work in the book subjects. You
see arithmetic is dead and dry. You must give pupils an incentive to
master it. We make the privileges of the construction table the
incentive." "What do they make at this table?" I asked. "Whatever their
fancy dictates," he replied. I was a little curious, however, to know
how it all come out. I saw one child start to work on a basket, work at
it a few minutes, then take up something else, continue a little time,
go back to the basket, and finally throw both down for a third object of
self-realization. I called the principal's attention to this phenomenon.
"How do you get the beautiful results that you exhibit?" I asked. "For
those," he said, "we just keep the pupils working on one thing until it
is finished." "But," I objected, "is that consistent with the doctrine
of spontaneity?" His answer was lost in the din of a change of groups,
and I did not follow the investigation further.

Noon dismissal was due when I went into the corridor. Lines are
forbidden in that school. At the stroke of the bell, the classroom doors
burst open and bedlam was let loose. I had anticipated what was coming,
and hurriedly betook myself to an alcove. I saw more spontaneity in two
minutes than I had ever seen before in my life. Some boys tore through
the corridors at breakneck speed and down the stairways, three steps at
a time. Others sauntered along, realizing various propensities by
pushing and shoving each other, snatching caps out of others' hands,
slapping each other over the head with books, and various other
expressions of exuberant spirits. One group stopped in front of my
alcove, and showed commendable curiosity about the visitor in their
midst. After exhausting his static possibilities, they tempted him to
dynamic reaction by making faces; but this proving to be of no avail,
they went on their way,--in the hope, doubtless, of realizing themselves

I left that school with a fairly firm conviction that I had seen the
most advanced notions of educational theory worked out to a logical
conclusion. There was nothing halfway about it. There was no apology
offered for anything that happened. It was all fair and square and open
and aboveboard. To be sure, the pupils were, to my prejudiced mind, in a
condition approaching anarchy, but I could not deny the spontaneity, nor
could I deny self-activity, nor could I deny self-realization. These
principles were evidently operating without let or hindrance.

Before leaving the school, I took occasion to inquire concerning the
effect of such a system upon the teachers. I led up to it by asking the
principal if there were any nervous or anæmic children in his school.
"Not one," he replied enthusiastically; "our system eliminates them."
"But how about the teachers?" I ventured to remark, having in mind the
image of a distracted young woman whom I had seen attempting to reduce
forty little ruffians to some semblance of law and order through moral
suasion. If I judged conditions correctly, that woman was on the verge
of a nervous breakdown. My guide became confidential when I made this
inquiry. "To tell the truth," he whispered, "the system is mighty hard
on the women."

A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting a high school which was
operated upon this same principle. I visited in that school some classes
that were taught by men and women, whom I should number among the most
expert teachers that I have ever seen. The instruction that these men
and women were giving was as clear and lucid as one could desire. And
yet, in spite of that excellent instruction, pupils read newspapers,
prepared other lessons, or read books during the recitations, and did
all this openly and unreproved. They responded to their instructors with
shameless insolence. Young ladies of sixteen and seventeen coming from
cultured homes were permitted in this school to pull each other's hair,
pinch the arms of schoolmates who were reciting, and behave themselves
in general as if they were savages. The pupils lolled in their seats,
passed notes, kept up an undertone of conversation, arose from their
seats at the first tap of the bell, and piled in disorder out of the
classroom while the instructor was still talking. If the lessons had
been tedious, one might perhaps at least have palliated such conduct,
but the instruction was very far from tedious. It was bright, lively,
animated, beautifully clear, and admirably illustrated. It is simply the
theory of this school never to interfere with the spontaneous activity
of the pupils. And I may add that the school draws its enrollment very
largely from wealthy families who believe that their children are being
given the best that modern education has developed, that they are not
being subjected to the deadening methods of the average public school,
and above all that their manners are not being corrupted by promiscuous
mingling with the offspring of illiterate immigrants. And yet soon
afterward, I visited a high school in one of the poorest slum districts
of a large city. I saw pupils well-behaved, courteous to one another, to
their instructors, and to visitors. The instruction was much below that
given in the first school in point of quality, and yet the pupils were
getting from it, even under these conditions, vastly more than were the
pupils of the other school from their masterly instructors.

The two schools that I first described represent one type of the attempt
that education has made to pioneer a new path through the wilderness. I
have said that many of these attempts have ended by bringing the
adventurers back to their starting point. I cannot say so much for these
schools. The movement that they represent is still floundering about in
the tamarack swamps, getting farther and farther into the morass, with
little hope of ever emerging.

May I tax your patience with one more concrete illustration: this time,
of a school that seems to me to have reached the starting point, but on
that new and higher plane of which I have spoken?

This school is in a small Massachusetts town, and is the model
department of the state normal school located at that place. The first
point that impressed me was typified by a boy of about twelve who was
passing through the corridor as I entered the building. Instead of
slouching along, wasting every possible moment before he should return
to his room, he was walking briskly as if eager to get back to his work.
Instead of staring at the stranger within his gates with the impudent
curiosity so often noticed in children of this age, he greeted me
pleasantly and wished to know if I were looking for the principal. When
I told him that I was, he informed me that the principal was on the
upper floor, but that he would go for him at once. He did, and returned
a moment later saying that the head of the school would be down
directly, and asked me to wait in the office, into which he ushered me
with all the courtesy of a private secretary. Then he excused himself
and went directly to his room.

Now that might have been an exceptional case, but I found out later that
is was not. Wherever I went in that school, the pupils were polite and
courteous and respectful. That was part of their education. It should be
part of every child's education. But many schools are too busy teaching
reading, writing, and arithmetic, and others are too busy preserving
discipline, and others are too busy coquetting for the good will of
their pupils and trying to amuse them--too busy to give heed to a set of
habits that are of paramount importance in the life of civilized
society. This school took up the matter of training in good manners as
an essential part of its duty, and it accomplished this task quickly and
effectively. It did it by utilizing the opportunities presented in the
usual course of school work. It took a little time and a little
attention, for good manners cannot be acquired incidentally any more
than the multiplication tables can be acquired incidentally; but it
utilized the everyday opportunities of the schoolroom, and did not make
morals and manners the subject of instruction for a half-hour on Friday
afternoons to be completely forgotten during the rest of the week.

When the principal took me through the school, I noted everywhere a
happy and courteous relation between pupils and teachers. They spoke
pleasantly to one another. I heard no nagging or scolding. I saw no one
sulking or pouting or in bad temper. And yet there was every evidence of
respect and obedience on the part of the pupils. There was none of that
happy-go-lucky comradeship which I have sometimes seen in other modern
schools, and which leads the pupil to understand that his teacher is
there to gain his interest, not to command his respectful attention.
Pupils were too busy with their work to talk much with one another. They
were sitting up in their seats as a matter of habit, and it did not seem
to hurt them seriously to do so. And everywhere they were working like
beavers at one task or another, or attending with all their eyes and
ears to a recitation.

Now it seemed to me that this school was operated with a minimum of
waste or loss. Every item of energy that the pupils possessed was being
given to some educative activity. Nothing was lost by conflict between
pupil and teacher. Nothing was lost by bursts of anger or by fits of
depression. These sources of waste had been eliminated so far as I could
determine. The pupils could read well and write well and cipher
accurately. They even took a keen delight in the drills. And I found
that this phase of their work was enlightened by the modern content that
had been introduced. In their handwork and manual training they could
see that arithmetic was useful,--that it had something to do with the
great big buzzing life of the outer world. They learned that spelling
was useful in writing,--that it was not something that began and ended
within the covers of the spelling book, but that it had a real and vital
relation to other things that they found to be important. They had their
dramatic exercises in which they and their fellows, and, on occasions,
their parents, took a keen delight, and they were glad to afford them
pleasure and to receive congratulations at the close. And yet they found
that, in order to do these things well, they must read and study and
drill on speaking. They liked to have their drawings inspected and
praised at the school exhibitions, but they soon found that good drawing
and painting and designing were strictly conditioned by a mastery of
technique, and they wished to master technique in order to win these

Now what was the secret of the efficiency of this school? Not merely the
fact that it had introduced certain types of content such as drawing,
manual training, domestic science, dramatization, story work,--but also
that it had not lost sight of the fundamental purpose of elementary
education, but had so organized all of its studies that each played into
the hands of the others, and that everything that was done had some
definite and tangible relation to everything else. The manual training
exercises and the mechanical drawing were exercises in arithmetic, but,
let me remind you, there were other lessons, and formal lessons, in
arithmetic as well. But the one exercise enlightened and made more
meaningful the other. In the same way the story and dramatization were
intimately related to the reading and the language, but there were
formal lessons in reading and formal lessons in language. The geography
illustrated nature study and employed language and arithmetic and
drawing in its exercises. And so the whole structure was organized and
coherent and unified, and what was taught in one class was utilized in
another. There was no needless duplication, no needless or meaningless
repetition. But repetition there was, over and over again, but always it
was effective in still more firmly fixing the habits.

One would be an ingrate, indeed, if one failed to recognize the great
good that an extreme reform movement may do. Some very precious
increments of progress have resulted even from the most extreme and
ridiculous reactions against the drill and formalism of the older
schools. Let me briefly summarize these really substantial gains as I
conceive them.

In the first place, we have come to recognize distinctly the importance
of enlisting in the service of habit building the native instincts of
the child. Up to a certain point nature provides for the fixing of
useful responses, and we should be unwise not to make use of these
tendencies. In the spontaneous activities of play, certain fundamental
reactions are continually repeated until they reach the plane of
absolute mechanism. In imitating the actions of others, adjustments are
learned and made into habits without effort; in fact, the process of
imitation, so far as it is instinctive, is a source of pure delight to
the young child. Finally, closely related to these two instincts, is the
native tendency to repetition,--nature's primary provision for drill.
You have often heard little children repeat their new words over and
over again. Frequently they have no conception of the meanings of these
words. Nature seems to be untroubled by a question that has bothered
teachers; namely, Should a child ever be asked to drill on something the
purpose of which he does not understand? Nature sees to it that certain
essential responses become automatic long before the child is conscious
of their meaning. Just because nature does this is, of course, no
reason why we should imitate her. But the fact is an interesting
commentary upon the extreme to which we sometimes carry our principle of
rationalizing everything before permitting it to be mastered.

I repeat that the reform movement has done excellent service in
extending the recognition in education of these fundamental and inborn
adaptive instincts,--play, imitation, and rhythmic repetition. It has
erred when it has insisted that we could depend upon these alone, for
nature has adapted man, not to the complicated conditions of our modern
highly organized social life, but rather to primitive conditions. Left
to themselves, these instinctive forces would take the child up to a
certain point, but they would still leave him on a primitive plane. I
know of one good authority on the teaching of reading who maintains that
the normal child would learn to read without formal teaching if he were
placed in the right environment,--an environment of books. This may be
possible with some exceptional children, but even an environment
reasonably replete with books does not effect this miracle in the case
of certain children whom I know very well and whom I like to think of as
perfectly normal. These children learned to talk by imitation and
instinctive repetition. But nature has not yet gone so far as to provide
the average child with spontaneous impulses that will lead him to learn
to read. Reading is a much more complicated and highly organized
process. And so it is with a vast number of the activities that our
pupils must master.

Another increment of progress that the reform movement has given to
educational practice is a recognition of the fact that we have been
requiring pupils to acquire unnecessary habits, under the impression,
that even if the habits were not useful, something of value was gained
in their acquisition. As a result, we have passed all of our grain
through the same mill, unmindful of the fact that different life
activities required different types of grist. To-day we are seeing the
need for carefully selecting the types of habit and skill that should be
developed in _all_ children. We are recognizing that there are many
phases of the educative process that it is not well to reduce to an
automatic basis. When I was in the elementary school I memorized
Barnes's _History of the United States_ and Harper's _Geography_ from
cover to cover. I have never greatly regretted this automatic mastery;
but I have often thought that I might have memorized something rather
more important, for history and geography could have been mastered just
as effectively in another way.

In the third place, and most important of all, we have been led to
analyze this complex process of habit building,--to find out the factors
that operate in learning. We have now a goodly body of principles that
may even be characterized by the adjective "scientific." We know that in
habit building, it is fundamentally essential to get the pupil started
in the right way. A recent writer states that two thirds of the
difficulty that the teacher meets fixing habits is due to the neglect of
this principle. Inadequate and inefficient habits get started and must
be continually combated while the desirable habit is being formed. How
important this is in the initial presentation of material that is to be
memorized or made automatic we are just now beginning to appreciate. One
writer insists that faulty work in the first grade is responsible for a
large part of the retardation which is bothering us so much to-day. The
wrong kind of a start is made, and whenever a faulty habit is formed, it
much more than doubles the difficulty of getting the right one well
under way. We are slowly coming to appreciate how much time is wasted in
drill processes by inadequate methods. Technique is being improved and
the time thus saved is being given to the newer content subjects that
are demanding admission to the schools.

Again, we are coming to appreciate as never before the importance of
motivating our drill work,--of not only reading into it purpose and
meaning so that the pupil will understand what it is all for, but also
of engendering in him the _desire_ to form the habits,--to undergo the
discipline that is essential for mastery. Here again the reform movement
has been helpful, showing us the waste of time and energy that results
from attempting to fix habits that are only weakly motivated.

All this is a vastly different matter from sugar-coating the drill
processes, under the mistaken notion that something that is worth while
may be acquired without effort. I think that educators are generally
agreed that such a policy is thoroughly bad,--for it subverts a basic
principle of human life the operation of which neither education nor any
other force can alter or reverse. To teach the child that the things in
life that are worth doing are easy to do, or that they are always or
even often intrinsically pleasant or agreeable, is to teach him a lie.
Human history gives us no examples of worthy achievements that have not
been made at the price of struggle and effort,--at the price of doing
things that men did not want to do. Every great truth has had to
struggle upward from defeat. Every man who has really found himself in
the work of life has paid the price of sacrifice for his success. And
whenever we attempt to give our pupils a mastery of the complicated arts
and skills that have lifted civilized man above the plane of his savage
ancestors, we must expect from them struggle and effort and self-denial.

Let me quote a paragraph from the report of a recent investigation in
the psychology of learning. The habit that was being learned in this
experiment was skill in the use of the typewriter. The writer describes
the process in the following words:

     "In the early stages of learning, our subjects were all very much
     interested in the work. Their whole mind seemed to be spontaneously
     held by the writing. They were always anxious to take up the work
     anew each day. Their general attitude and the resultant sensations
     constituted a pleasant feeling tone, which had a helpful
     reactionary effect upon the work. Continued practice, however,
     brought a change. In place of the spontaneous, rapt attention of
     the beginning stages, attention tended, at certain definite stages
     of advancement, to wander away from the work. A general feeling of
     monotony, which at times assumed the form of utter disgust, took
     the place of the former pleasant sensations and feelings. The
     writing became a disagreeable task. The unpleasant feelings now
     present in consciousness exerted an ever-restraining effect on the
     work. As an expert skill was approached, however, the learners'
     attitude and mood changed again. They again took a keen interest in
     the work. Their whole feeling tone once more became favorable, and
     the movements delightful and pleasant. The expert typist ... so
     thoroughly enjoyed the writing that it was as pleasant as the
     spontaneous play activities of a child. But in the course of
     developing this permanent interest in the work, there were many
     periods in nearly every test, many days, as well as stages in the
     practice as a whole, when the work was much disliked, periods when
     the learning assumed the rôle of a very monotonous task. Our
     records showed that at such times as these no progress was made.
     Rapid progress in learning typewriting was made only when the
     learners were feeling good and had an attitude of interest toward
     the work."[18]

Who has not experienced that feeling of hopelessness and despair that
comes at these successive levels of the long process of acquiring skill
in a complicated art? How desperately we struggle on--striving to put
every item of energy that we can command into our work, and yet feeling
how hopeless it all seems. How tempting then is the hammock on the
porch, the fascinating novel that we have placed on our bedside table,
the happy company of friends that are talking and laughing in the next
room; or how we long for the green fields and the open road; how
seductive is that siren call of change and diversion,--that evil spirit
of procrastination! How feeble, too, are the efforts that we make under
these conditions! We are not making progress in our art, we are only
marking time. And yet the psychologists tell us that this marking time
is an essential in the mastery of any complicated art. Somewhere, deep
down in the nervous system, subtle processes are at work, and when
finally interest dawns,--when finally hope returns to us, and life again
becomes worth while,--these heartbreaking struggles reap their reward.
The psychologists call them "plateaus of growth," but some one has said
that "sloughs of despond" would be a far better designation.

The progress of any individual depends upon his ability to pass through
these sloughs of despond,--to set his face resolutely to the task and
persevere. It would be the idlest folly to lead children to believe that
success or achievement or even passing ability can be gained in any
other manner. And this is the danger in the sugar-coating process.

But motivation does not mean sugar-coating. It means the development of
purpose, of ambition, of incentive. It means the development of the
willingness to undergo the discipline in order that the purpose may be
realized, in order that the goal may be attained. It means the creating
of those conditions that make for strength and virility and moral
fiber,--for it is in the consciousness of having overcome obstacles and
won in spite of handicaps,--it is in this consciousness of conquest that
mental strength and moral strength have their source. The victory that
really strengthens one is not the victory that has come easily, but the
victory that stands out sharp and clear against the background of effort
and struggle. It is because this subjective contrast is so absolutely
essential to the consciousness of power,--it is for this reason that the
"sloughs of despond" still have their function in our new attitude
toward drill.

But do not mistake me: I have no sympathy with that educational
"stand-pattism" that would multiply these needlessly, or fail to build
solid and comfortable highways across them wherever it is possible to do
so. I have no sympathy with that philosophy of education which approves
the placing of artificial barriers in the learner's path. But if I build
highways across the morasses, it is only that youth may the more readily
traverse the region and come the more quickly to the points where
struggle is absolutely necessary.

You remember in George Eliot's _Daniel Deronda_ the story of Gwendolen
Harleth. Gwendolen was a butterfly of society, a young woman in whose
childhood drill and discipline had found no place. In early womanhood,
she was, through family misfortune, thrown upon her own resources. In
casting about for some means of self-support her first recourse was to
music, for which she had some taste and in which she had had some
slight training. She sought out her old German music teacher, Klesmer,
and asked him what she might do to turn this taste and this training to
financial account. Klesmer's reply sums up in a nutshell the psychology
of skill:

     "Any great achievement in acting or in music grows with the growth.
     Whenever an artist has been able to say, 'I came, I saw, I
     conquered,' it has been at the end of patient practice. Genius, at
     first, is little more than a great capacity for receiving
     discipline. Singing and acting, like the fine dexterity of the
     juggler with his cup and balls, require a shaping of the organs
     toward a finer and finer certainty of effect. Your muscles, your
     whole frame, must go like a watch,--true, true, true, to a hair.
     This is the work of the springtime of life before the habits have
     been formed."

And I can formulate my own conception of the work of habit building in
education no better than by paraphrasing Klesmer's epigram. To increase
in our pupils the capacity to receive discipline; to show them, through
concrete example, over and over again, how persistence and effort and
concentration bring results that are worth while; to choose from their
own childish experiences the illustrations that will force this lesson
home; to supplement, from the stories of great achievements, those
illustrations which will inspire them to effort; to lead them to see
that Peary conquering the Pole, or Wilbur Wright perfecting the
aëroplane, or Morse struggling through long years of hopelessness and
discouragement to give the world the electric telegraph,--to show them
that these men went through experiences differing only in degree and not
in kind from those which characterize every achievement, no matter how
small, so long as it is dominated by a unitary purpose; to make the
inevitable sloughs of despond no less morasses, perhaps, but to make
their conquest add a permanent increment to growth and development: this
is the task of our drill work as I view it. As the prophecy of Isaiah
has it: "Precept must be upon precept; precept upon precept; line upon
line; line upon line; here a little and there a little." And if we can
succeed in giving our pupils this vision,--if we can reveal the deeper
meaning of struggle and effort and self-denial and sacrifice shining out
through the little details of the day's work,--we are ourselves
achieving something that is richly worth while; for the highest triumph
of the teacher's art is to get his pupils to see, in the small and
seemingly trivial affairs of everyday life, the operation of fundamental
and eternal principles.


[Footnote 17: An address before the Kansas State Teachers' Association,
Topeka, October 20, 1910.]

[Footnote 18: W.F. Book, _Journal of Educational Psychology_, vol. i,
1910, p. 195.]



I wish to discuss with you briefly a very commonplace and oft-repeated
theme,--a theme that has been handled and handled until its
once-glorious raiment is now quite threadbare; a theme so full of
pitfalls and dangers for one who would attempt its discussion that I
have hesitated long before making a choice. I know of no other theme
that lends itself so readily to a superficial treatment--of no theme
upon which one could find so easily at hand all of the proverbs and
platitudes and maxims that one might desire. And so I cannot be expected
to say anything upon this topic that has not been said before in a far
better manner. But, after all, very few of our thoughts--even of those
that we consider to be the most original and worth while--are really new
to the world. Most of our thoughts have been thought before. They are
like dolls that are passed on from age to age to be dressed up and
decorated to suit the taste or the fashion or the fancy of each
succeeding generation. But even a new dress may add a touch of newness
to an old doll; and a new phrase or a new setting may, for a moment,
rejuvenate an old truth.

The topic that I wish to treat is this, "The Ideal Teacher." And I may
as well start out by saying that the ideal teacher is and always must be
a figment of the imagination. This is the essential feature of any
ideal. The ideal man, for example, must possess an infinite number of
superlative characteristics. We take this virtue from one, and that from
another, and so on indefinitely until we have constructed in imagination
a paragon, the counterpart of which could never exist on earth. He would
have all the virtues of all the heroes; but he would lack all their
defects and all their inadequacies. He would have the manners of a
Chesterfield, the courage of a Winkelried, the imagination of a Dante,
the eloquence of a Cicero, the wit of a Voltaire, the intuitions of a
Shakespeare, the magnetism of a Napoleon, the patriotism of a
Washington, the loyalty of a Bismarck, the humanity of a Lincoln, and a
hundred other qualities, each the counterpart of some superlative
quality, drawn from the historic figure that represented that quality in
richest measure.

And so it is with the ideal teacher: he would combine, in the right
proportion, all of the good qualities of all of the good teachers that
we have ever known or heard of. The ideal teacher is and always must be
a creature, not of flesh and blood, but of the imagination, a child of
the brain. And perhaps it is well that this is true; for, if he existed
in the flesh, it would not take very many of him to put the rest of us
out of business. The relentless law of compensation, which rules that
unusual growth in one direction must always be counterbalanced by
deficient growth in another direction, is the saving principle of human
society. That a man should be superlatively good in one single line of
effort is the demand of modern life. It is a platitude to say that this
is the age of the specialist. But specialism, while it always means a
gain to society, also always means a loss to the individual. Darwin, at
the age of forty, suddenly awoke to the fact that he was a man of one
idea. Twenty years before, he had been a youth of the most varied and
diverse interests. He had enjoyed music, he had found delight in the
masterpieces of imaginative literature, he had felt a keen interest in
the drama, in poetry, in the fine arts. But at forty Darwin quite by
accident discovered that these things had not attracted him for
years,--that every increment of his time and energy was concentrated in
a constantly increasing measure upon the unraveling of that great
problem to which he had set himself. And he lamented bitterly the loss
of these other interests; he wondered why he had been so thoughtless as
to let them slip from his grasp. It was the same old story of human
progress; the sacrifice of the individual to the race. For Darwin's loss
was the world's gain, and if he had not limited himself to one line of
effort, and given himself up to that work to the exclusion of everything
else, the world might still be waiting for the _Origin of Species_, and
the revolution in human thought and human life which followed in the
wake of that great book. Carlyle defined genius as an infinite capacity
for taking pains. George Eliot characterized it as an infinite capacity
for receiving discipline. But to make the definition complete, we need
the formulation of Goethe, who identified genius with the power of
concentration: "Who would be great must limit his ambitions; in
concentration is shown the Master."

And so the great men of history, from the very fact of their genius, are
apt not to correspond with what our ideal of greatness demands. Indeed,
our ideal is often more nearly realized in men who fall far short of
genius. When I studied chemistry, the instructor burned a bit of diamond
to prove to us that the diamond was, after all, only carbon in an
"allotropic" form. There seems to be a similar allotropy working in
human nature. Some men seem to have all the constituents of genius, but
they never reach very far above the plane of the commonplace. They are
like the diamond,--except that they are more like the charcoal.

I wish to describe to you a teacher who was not a genius, and yet who
possessed certain qualities that I should abstract and appropriate if I
were to construct in my imagination an ideal teacher. I first met this
man five years ago out in the mountain country. I can recall the
occasion with the most vivid distinctness. It was a sparkling morning,
in middle May. The valley was just beginning to green a little under
the influence of the lengthening days, but on the surrounding mountains
the snow line still hung low. I had just settled down to my morning's
work when word was brought that a visitor wished to see me, and a moment
later he was shown into the office. He was tall and straight, with
square shoulders and a deep chest. His hair was gray, and a rather long
white beard added to the effect of age, but detracted not an iota from
the evidences of strength and vigor. He had the look of a Westerner,--of
a man who had lived much of his life in the open. There was a ruggedness
about him, a sturdy strength that told of many a day's toil along the
trail, and many a night's sleep under the stars.

In a few words he stated the purpose of his visit. He simply wished to
do what half a hundred others in the course of the year had entered that
office for the purpose of doing. He wished to enroll as a student in the
college and to prepare himself for a teacher. This was not ordinarily a
startling request, but hitherto it had been made only by those who were
just starting out on the highroad of life. Here was a man advanced in
years. He told me that he was sixty-five, and sixty-five in that country
meant old age; for the region had but recently been settled, and most of
the people were either young or middle-aged. The only old men in the
country were the few surviving pioneers,--men who had come in away back
in the early days of the mining fever, long before the advent of the
railroad. They had trekked across the plains from Omaha, and up through
the mountainous passes of the Oregon trail; or, a little later, they had
come by steamboat from St. Louis up the twelve-hundred-mile stretch of
the Missouri until their progress had been stopped by the Great Falls in
the very foothills of the Rockies. What heroes were these graybeards of
the mountains! What possibilities in knowing them, of listening to the
recounting of tales of the early days,--of running fights with the
Indians on the plains, of ambushments by desperadoes in the mountain
passes, of the lurid life of the early mining camps, and the desperate
deeds of the Vigilantes! And here, before me, was a man of that type.
You could read the main facts of his history in the very lines of his
face. And this man--one of that small band whom the whole country united
to honor--this man wanted to become a student,--to sit among adolescent
boys and girls, listening to the lectures and discussions of instructors
who were babes in arms when he was a man of middle life.

But there was no doubt of his determination. With the eagerness of a
boy, he outlined his plan to me; and in doing this, he told me the story
of his life,--just the barest facts to let me know that he was not a man
to do things half-heartedly, or to drop a project until he had carried
it through either to a successful issue, or to indisputable defeat.

And what a life that man had lived! He had been a youth of promise,
keen of intelligence and quick of wit. He had spent two years at a
college in the Middle West back in the early sixties. He had left his
course uncompleted to enter the army, and he had followed the fortunes
of war through the latter part of the great rebellion. At the close of
the war he went West. He farmed in Kansas until the drought and the
grasshoppers urged him on. He joined the first surveying party that
picked out the line of the transcontinental railroad that was to follow
the southern route along the old Santa Fé trail. He carried the chain
and worked the transit across the Rockies, across the desert, across the
Sierras, until, with his companions, he had--

    "led the iron stallions down to drink
  Through the cañons to the waters of the West."

And when this task was accomplished, he followed the lure of the gold
through the California placers; eastward again over the mountains to the
booming Nevada camp, where the Comstock lode was already turning out the
wealth that was to build a half-dozen colossal fortunes. He "prospected"
through this country, with varying success, living the life of the
camps,--rich in its experiences, vivid in its coloring, calling forth
every item of energy and courage and hardihood that a man could command.
Then word came by that mysterious wireless and keyless telegraphy of the
mountains and the desert,--word that back to the eastward, ore deposits
of untold wealth had been discovered. So eastward once more, with the
stampede of the miners, he turned his face. He was successful at the
outset in this new region. He quickly accumulated a fortune; he lost it
and amassed another; lost that and still gained a third. Five successive
fortunes he made successively, and successively he lost them. But during
this time he had become a man of power and influence in the community.
He married and raised a family and saw his children comfortably settled.

But when his last fortune was swept away, the old _Wanderlust_ again
claimed its own. Houses and lands and mortgages and mills and mines had
slipped from his grasp. But it mattered little. He had only himself to
care for, and, with pick and pan strapped to his saddlebow, he set his
face westward. Along the ridges of the high Rockies, through Wyoming and
Montana, he wandered, ever on the lookout for the glint of gold in the
white quartz. Little by little he moved westward, picking up a
sufficient living, until he found himself one winter shut in by the
snows in a remote valley on the upper waters of the Gallatin River. He
stopped one night at a lonely ranch house. In the course of the evening
his host told him of a catastrophe that had befallen the widely
scattered inhabitants of that remote valley. The teacher of the district
school had fallen sick, and there was little likelihood of their getting
another until spring.

That is a true catastrophe to the ranchers of the high valleys cut off
from every line of communication with the outer world. For the
opportunities of education are highly valued in that part of the West.
They are reckoned with bread and horses and cattle and sheep, as among
the necessities of life. The children were crying for school, and their
parents could not satisfy that peculiar kind of hunger. But here was the
relief. This wanderer who had arrived in their midst was a man of parts.
He was lettered; he was educated. Would he do them the favor of teaching
their children until the snow had melted away from the ridges, and his
cayuse could pick the trail through the cañons?

Now school-keeping was farthest from this man's thoughts. But the needs
of little children were very near to his heart. He accepted the offer,
and entered the log schoolhouse as the district schoolmaster, while a
handful of pupils, numbering all the children of the community who could
ride a broncho, came five, ten, and even fifteen miles daily, through
the winter's snows and storms and cruel cold, to pick up the crumbs of
learning that had lain so long untouched.

What happened in that lonely little school, far off on the Gallatin
bench, I never rightly discovered. But when spring opened up, the master
sold his cayuse and his pick and his rifle and the other implements of
his trade. With the earnings of the winter he made his way to the school
that the state had established for the training of teachers; and I count
it as one of the privileges of my life that I was the first official of
that school to listen to his story and to welcome him to the vocation
that he had chosen to follow.

And yet, when I looked at his face, drawn into lines of strength by
years of battle with the elements; when I looked at the clear, blue
eyes, that told of a far cleaner life than is lived by one in a thousand
of those that hold the frontiers of civilization; when I caught an
expression about the mouth that told of an innate humanity far beyond
the power of worldly losses or misfortunes to crush and subdue, I could
not keep from my lips the words that gave substance to my thought; and
the thought was this: that it were far better if we who were supposed to
be competent to the task of education should sit reverently at the feet
of this man, than that we should presume to instruct him. For knowledge
may come from books, and even youth may possess it, but wisdom comes
only from experience, and this man had that wisdom in far greater
measure than we of books and laboratories and classrooms could ever hope
to have it. He had lived years while we were living days.

I thought of a learned scholar who, through patient labor in amassing
facts, had demonstrated the influence of the frontier in the development
of our national ideals; who had pointed out how, at each successive
stage of American history, the heroes of the frontier, pushing farther
and farther into the wilderness, conquering first the low coastal plain
of the Atlantic seaboard, then the forested foothills and ridges of the
Appalachians, had finally penetrated into the Mississippi Valley, and,
subduing that, had followed on westward to the prairies, and then to the
great plains, and then clear across the great divide, the alkali
deserts, and the Sierras, to California and the Pacific Coast; how these
frontiersmen, at every stage of our history, had sent back wave after
wave of strength and virility to keep alive the sturdy ideals of toil
and effort and independence,--ideals that would counteract the mellowing
and softening and degenerating influences of the hothouse civilization
that grew up so rapidly in the successive regions that they left behind.
Turner's theory that most of what is typical and unique in American
institutions and ideals owes its existence to the backset of the
frontier life found a living exemplar in the man who stood before me on
that May morning.

But he would not be discouraged from his purpose. He had made up his
mind to complete the course that the school offered; to take up the
thread of his education at the point where he had dropped it more than
forty years before. He had made up his mind, and it was easy to see that
he was not a man to be deterred from a set purpose.

I shall not hide the fact that some of us were skeptical of the outcome.
That a man of sixty-five should have a thirst for learning was not
remarkable. But that a man whose life had been spent in scenes of
excitement, who had been associated with deeds and events that stir the
blood when we read of them to-day, a man who had lived almost every
moment of his life in the open,--that such a man could settle down to
the uneventful life of a student and a teacher, could shut himself up
within the four walls of a classroom, could find anything to inspire and
hold him in the dull presentation of facts or the dry elucidation of
theories,--this seemed to be a miracle not to be expected in this
realistic age. But, miracle or not, the thing actually happened. He
remained nearly four years in the school, earning his living by work
that he did in the intervals of study, and doing it so well that, when
he graduated, he had not only his education and the diploma which stood
for it, but also a bank account.

He lived in a little cabin by himself, for he wished to be where he
would not disturb others when he sang or whistled over his work in the
small hours of the night. But his meals he took at the college
dormitory, where he presided at a table of young women students. Never
was a man more popular with the ladies than this weather-beaten
patriarch with the girls of his table. No matter how gloomy the day
might be, one could always find sunshine from that quarter. No matter
how grievous the troubles of work, there was always a bit of cheerful
optimism from a man who had tasted almost every joy and sorrow that life
had to offer. If one were in a blue funk of dejection because of failure
in a class, he would lend the sympathy that came from his own rich
experience in failures,--not only past but present, for some things that
come easy at sixteen come hard at sixty-five, and this man who would
accept no favors had to fight his way through "flunks" and "goose-eggs"
like the younger members of the class. And even with it all so complete
an embodiment of hope and courage and wholesome light-heartedness would
be hard to find. He was an optimist because he had learned long since
that anything but optimism is a crime; and learning this in early life,
optimism had become a deeply seated and ineradicable prejudice in his
mind. He could not have been gloomy if he had tried.

And so this man fought his way through science and mathematics and
philosophy, slowly but surely, just as he had fought inch by inch and
link by link, across the Arizona desert years before. It was a much
harder fight, for all the force of lifelong habit, than which there is
none other so powerful, was against him from the start. And now came the
human temptation to be off on the old trail, to saddle his horse and get
a pick and a pan and make off across the western range to the golden
land that always lies just under the sunset. How often that turbulent
_Wanderlust_ seized him, I can only conjecture. But I know the spirit of
the wanderer was always strong within him. He could say, with Kipling's
_Tramp Royal_:

  "It's like a book, I think, this bloomin' world,
  Which you can read and care for just so long,
  But presently you feel that you will die
  Unless you get the page you're reading done,
  An' turn another--likely not so good;
  But what you're after is to turn them all."

And I knew that he fought that temptation over and over again; for that
little experience out on the Gallatin bench had only partially turned
his life from the channels of wandering, although it had bereft him of
the old desire to seek for gold. Often he outlined to me a
well-formulated plan; perhaps he had to tell some one, lest the fever
should take too strong a hold upon him, and force his surrender. His
plan was this: He would teach a term here and there, gradually working
his way westward, always toward the remote corners of the earth into
which his roving instinct seemed unerringly to lead him. Alaska, Hawaii,
and the Philippines seemed easy enough to access; surely, he thought,
teachers must be needed in all those regions. And when he should have
turned these pages, he might have mastered his vocation in a degree
sufficient to warrant his attempting an alien soil. Then he would sail
away into the South Seas, with New Zealand and Australia as a base. And
gradually moving westward through English-speaking settlements and
colonies he would finally complete the circuit of the globe.

And the full fruition of that plan might have formed a fitting climax to
my tale, were I telling it for the sake of its romance; but my purpose
demands a different conclusion. My hero is now principal of schools in a
little city of the mountains,--a city so tiny that its name would be
unknown to most of you. And I have heard vague rumors that he is rising
rapidly in his profession and that the community he serves will not
listen to anything but a permanent tenure of his office. All of which
seems to indicate to me that he has abandoned, for the while at least,
his intention to turn quite all the pages of the world's great book, and
is content to live true to the ideal that was born in the log
schoolhouse--the conviction that the true life is the life of service,
and that the love of wandering and the lure of gold are only siren calls
that lead one always toward, but never to, the promised land of dreams
that seems to lie just over the western range where the pink sunset
stands sharp against the purple shadows.

The ending of my story is prosaic, but everything in this world is
prosaic, unless you view it either in the perspective of time or space,
or in the contrasts that bring out the high lights and deepen the

But if I have left my hero happily married to his profession, the
courtship and winning of which formed the theme of my tale, I may be
permitted to indulge in a very little moralizing of a rather more
explicit sort than I have yet attempted.

It is a simple matter to construct in imagination an ideal teacher. Mix
with immortal youth and abounding health, a maximal degree of knowledge
and a maximal degree of experience, add perfect tact, the spirit of true
service, the most perfect patience, and the most steadfast persistence;
place in the crucible of some good normal school; stir in twenty weeks
of standard psychology, ten weeks of general method, and varying
amounts of patent compounds known as special methods, all warranted pure
and without drugs or poison; sweeten with a little music, toughen with
fifteen weeks of logic, bring to a slow boil in the practice school,
and, while still sizzling, turn loose on a cold world. The formula is
simple and complete, but like many another good recipe, a competent cook
might find it hard to follow when she is short of butter and must
shamefully skimp on the eggs.

Now the man whose history I have recounted represents the most priceless
qualities of this formula. In the first place he possessed that quality
the key to which the philosophers of all ages have sought in vain,--he
had solved the problem of eternal youth. At the age of sixty-five his
enthusiasm was the enthusiasm of an adolescent. His energy was the
energy of an adolescent. Despite his gray hair and white beard, his mind
was perennially young. And that is the only type of mind that ought to
be concerned with the work of education. I sometimes think that one of
the advantages of a practice school lies in the fact that the teachers
who have direct charge of the pupils--whatever may be their
limitations--have at least the virtue of youth, the virtue of being
young. If they could only learn from my hero the art of keeping young,
of keeping the mind fresh and vigorous and open to whatever is good and
true, no matter how novel a form it may take, they might, like him,
preserve their youth indefinitely. And I think that his life gives us
one clew to the secret,--to keep as close as we can to nature, for
nature is always young; to sing and to whistle when we would rather
weep; to cheer and comfort when we would rather crush and dishearten;
often to dare something just for the sake of daring, for to be young is
to dare; and always to wonder, for that is the prime symptom of youth,
and when a man ceases to wonder, age and decrepitude are waiting for him
around the next corner.

It is the privilege of the teaching craft to represent more adequately
than any other calling the conditions for remaining young. There is time
for living out-of-doors, which some of us, alas! do not do. And youth,
with its high hope and lofty ambition, with its resolute daring and its
naive wonder, surrounds us on every side. And yet how rapidly some of us
age! How quickly life seems to lose its zest! How completely are we
blind to the opportunities that are on every hand!

And closely related to this virtue of being always young, in fact
growing out of it, the ideal teacher will have, as my hero had, the gift
of gladness,--that joy of living which takes life for granted and
proposes to make the most of every moment of consciousness that it

And finally, to balance these qualities, to keep them in leash, the
ideal teacher should possess that spirit of service, that conviction
that the life of service is the only life worth while--that conviction
for which my hero struggled so long and against such tremendous odds.
The spirit of service must always be the cornerstone of the teaching
craft. To know that any life which does not provide the opportunities
for service is not worth the living, and that any life, however humble,
that does provide these opportunities is rich beyond the reach of
earthly rewards,--this is the first lesson that the tyro in schoolcraft
must learn, be he sixteen or sixty-five.

And just as youth and hope and the gift of gladness are the eternal
verities on one side of the picture, so the spirit of service, the
spirit of sacrifice, is the eternal verity that forms their true
complement; without whose compensation, hope were but idle dreaming, and
laughter a hollow mockery. And self-denial, which is the keynote of
service, is the great sobering, justifying, eternal factor that
symbolizes humanity more perfectly than anything else. In the
introduction to _Romola_, George Eliot pictures a spirit of the past who
returns to earth four hundred years after his death, and looks down upon
his native city of Florence. And I can conclude with no better words
than those in which George Eliot voices her advice to that shade:

     "Go not down, good Spirit: for the changes are great and the speech
     of the Florentines would sound as a riddle in your ears. Or, if you
     go, mingle with no politicians on the marmi, or elsewhere; ask no
     questions about trade in Calimara; confuse yourself with no
     inquiries into scholarship, official or monastic. Only look at the
     sunlight and shadows on the grand walls that were built solidly and
     have endured in their grandeur; look at the faces of the little
     children, making another sunlight amid the shadows of age; look, if
     you will, into the churches and hear the same chants, see the same
     images as of old--the images of willing anguish for a great end,
     of beneficent love and ascending glory, see upturned living faces,
     and lips moving to the old prayers for help. These things have not
     changed. The sunlight and the shadows bring their old beauty and
     waken the old heart-strains at morning, noon, and even-tide; the
     little children are still the symbol of the eternal marriage
     between love and duty; and men still yearn for the reign of peace
     and righteousness--still own that life to be the best which is a
     conscious voluntary sacrifice."


[Footnote 19: An address to the graduating class of the Oswego, New
York, State Normal School, February, 1908.]

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