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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/513

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THE STORY OF A SCHOOL,

liberty of thought. Time-worn methods of teaching were brought up for discussion and judged by their results, and in the light of reason.

Credit is surely due the founders and conductors of institutes, in that they brought about and persisted in this habit of questioning and discussing educational practices and principles. This was their special field of work. Their method was the true one, but the laws of life and of mental development were not then well enough understood, even by the best thinkers, to furnish safe guidance in this difficult work.

"The new education" means a revolt against all precise, ready-made forms, and an adoption of such methods as science may from time to time discover and point out. The "Story of a School" tells of the trials and triumphs of an experiment designed to test educational principles at which I had arrived through many years of "institute" instruction. In this constant comparing, discriminating, and sifting of methods I had obtained a special preparation for normal-school work. Herbert Spencer, in his treatise on education, had laid a solid foundation for scientific education, and Prof. E. L. Youmans had with voice and pen succeeded in arousing among thinking people a lively interest in the subject.

In the year 1872, through the agency of the Hon. John Monteith. Superintendent of the Schools of Missouri, I received a call to take charge of the newly established normal school at Warrensburg in that State. In the interview with Mr. Monteith I said suggestively to him, "You do not want me, and your board of regents will not want my services when they learn the conditions I shall exact."—"What may these be? "said he, with some curiosity in his tone. "Entire control of the school, without interference from the superintendent or from the regents," was my reply. Laughing, said he, "You are the very man we want," and added, by way of caution: "You understand that liberty implies responsibility. Give us right results, and we will trust to you for methods." I accepted the situation, and took up my work under circumstances singularly propitious to the experiment I was about to make.

The first thing that engaged my attention was the preparation of a course of study. It was an easy matter to select the required document from the catalogue of some noted institution, or I might have made a mosaic, adopting parts from several. A brief inspection of various catalogues showed that little thought had been bestowed upon the order of subjects in the course. One study might be made to take the place of any other, without the slightest disturbance in their relations. Of the natural order of growth in mind, and of the corresponding sequences in the sciences, they