Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/332

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By Professor M. V. O'SHEA.


ANY student of social progress might learn a useful lesson if he would attend a convention of the National Educational Association, which, in the general character of its work, is typical of the numberless educational organizations existing among us. He would find the most complicated questions of educational procedure being discussed by a body of men of the most divergent interests, training and experience—by prominent public officials who may boast of the fact that they were not trained in the schools themselves; by college presidents and professors in technical departments who have never given an hour's thought to the principles of education; by normal school principals and school superintendents, who devote all their energies to executive details; and in addition to these one may listen to dogmatic opinions regarding studies and methods from editors of the secular and professional press, parents and citizens, merchant princes, bankers, lawyers, physicians, ministers—any one who has attracted attention in any field of practical activity is likely to be invited to give teachers directions as to how they should 'train up the rising generation.' The sort of person who will be least in evidence at the convention is he who is carefully investigating some particular problem of education according to scientific methods. Program makers usually do not wish 'theoretical' or 'laboratory' papers; they want something 'spicy,' 'concrete,' 'practical,' 'common sense.' Study the programs of educational gatherings, and note how largely they are devoted to the exploitation of mere opinion based upon incidental and shallow observation. One does not often hear a governor, say, or a college president, or a professor of Greek, or an editor of a daily paper, instructing physicians regarding the nature of disease and how it should be treated; but such persons will often dogmatically lay down the laws to teachers respecting educational values and methods. They justify themselves on the ground of superior 'common sense'; specialists, they say, men who devise ways to overcome the universal tendency to interpret everything in the light of individual experience and preconceptions, so that they may examine the phenomena in a special field with an eye single to the truth—such men are not generally favored by the gods with well-balanced minds, and only the man who knows a little of