Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/73

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
65
THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD WITH CHILDREN.

siderable uniformity but is very deceptive. A small proportion of the pupils most responsive try to answer as they think the teacher wishes, and a large proportion wait to hear what the others say and try to remember that. The questions are in a way answered by observations of the specimens in hand, but the "leading" process is so powerful that practically it amounts to indirect telling. Information much disguised is the staple material of the lesson, although it is not intended, and the giving of it is simply transferred from the teacher to a few responsive pupils. As a whole the pupils do not "take hold," and the disposition to make independent investigations is not cultivated.

A principal of a training school on hearing such a lesson comments thus: "This brought us to the end of a very logical lesson, but one which was at the same time one of the most mechanical, most wooden, most stupid and profitless lessons to which I ever listened. It was all right according to the letter of the law, but where was the spirit of education? I need not tell you of the unrest, the inattention, the new channels of activity that the children opened up for themselves, the imitation, the lack of spontaneity, the utter inability to hold the mind to this dreary treadmill."

Isolation tends to exaggerate variation. The normal school has not been connected with the scientific school, and neither has been closely connected with the elementary schools. Only within a very few years have city normal pupils had somewhat regular practice in teaching in elementary schools; and even now the practice must be very limited in city schools, since the latter must do regular and efficient work and not be interfered with much by novices in teaching. Pupils of the scientific schools have not had the meager opportunities for teaching which have been furnished normal pupils. If they attempt to teach science in elementary schools, they are obliged to experiment with children, not only to find out what the children are prepared to do, but what they themselves can and can not do; and their experiences, as well as those of their pupils, are full of surprises and disappointments. Some graduates of scientific schools take charge of the science work in normal schools, whose special work is to instruct teachers in natural methods. It is fair to ask whether such graduates, who have the opportunity of influencing so many teachers, are helping or hindering the cause of elementary science. Neither the normal schools nor the scientific schools, although they differ widely in methods and seldom touch common ground, consider the possibility of graduating pupils who are more than likely to prove unscientific teachers of elementary science.

The correlation of the normal school, the scientific school, and the elementary school, practically carried out, would give us a