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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/221

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CORRESPONDENCE.

made an exclusive aim), and as its meaning is so vague that almost anything can be urged as a corrolary to it, it may be dismissed. The first two contentions are about concrete matters of educational practice which need to be thought over. If professional preparation is a waste of time, there is every reason why we should omit it; if a prescribed course of study is better for the boys and girls, we can conscientiously lessen the expense and labor of administration in many schools.

The argument on the first point is, briefly, that Professor Münsterberg's teachers were good teachers and that they had no notion of even the vocabulary of educational theories. But obviously that may not have been the secret of their success. A majority of the high-school teachers in New England have had no professional training, yet no one has observed that they are superior to those of their class who have. The argument is really a bare assertion of an unverified guess. It is the hap-hazard opinion of an eminent psychologist who perchance is trying to furnish evidence of his previous theory that psychology does not give one knowledge about teaching. It is worth while to note here a certain interesting aspect of human nature. Training in one sphere of intellectual activity need not bring ability in other spheres. The habit and power of observation or reasoning acquired in connection with chemistry need not make a man a good observer or reasoner in politics or philology.-So we should not be surprised that a man eminent for his scientific habits as a psychologist should, on a question in another field, offer imaginative hypotheses without an attempt to verify them, or to collect pertinent evidence or to eliminate factors outside those he discusses. We may be allowed to feel sorry. If a scientist wishes to really clear up the question of the value of professional training, why does he not find representatives of the classes, 'teachers with professional training' and 'teachers their equals in other respects, who have replaced the effort after professional training by equal effort after further scholarship,' and compare the work of the two classes? If other factors enter to disturb such an investigation, why not carefully look at the facts to ascertain their influence? Until he does so his dicta will stand as mere opinions. It would be a blessing if scientific men would use the weight of their reputations, not to bolster up their after-dinner opinions about things in general, but to teach the public scientific methods of studying them.

Apart from the danger of offering pedagogy an unproved opinion as a fact, it seems poor economy to leave a question in such shape that only the opinion of another eminent man on the opposite side is required to destroy the result you have attained. Precisely this has occurred in the case of Professor Münsterberg's contributions to educational discussion two years ago. Another eminent man, Professor Dewey, has recently squarely denied what Professor Münsterberg affirmed. It only remains for some equally eminent German professor to rise and declare that his teachers were bad and that they had no professional training, or that his teachers were good and had it, and Professor Münsterberg's effect is neutralized.

Professor Münsterberg's argument against the elective system is more complex. He regards the elective system as partly a concession to the obvious need of fitting young people earlier for their occupations in life and partly an attempt to use the likes and dislikes of children as a guide to what is good for them. This is a very narrow view. The elective system has been in part the result of the progress of science and the consequent conviction that the scientific study of things and human affairs should be a part of one's education. The elective system furnished a compromise by which such studies found a place in the college and school curricula. If the student is left to choose among them, instead of having a new prescribed course made out on the