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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/125

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121
SCHOOL ORGANIZATION AND INSTRUCTION

tion; and it will be the aim, also, to point out some of the most important changes needed in present school organization that the desired end may be attained.

The chief obstacle at present in the way of socializing the schools is found in their forms of organization. The machinery of the average school is an invention for the purpose of holding a pupil down while we educate him by the breathing-in process. A social institution is an organism; whereas, the school is formed essentially on a plan designed for dealing with a sum of particulars. It is treated as a body having merely the agglutinant characteristics of an aggregation. Few people realize that the transformation of a school of the average type into a social body means more than a change of name; in fact, however, it really means a revolution.

Regardless of outward forms and of protestations to the contrary, the real end of the school has been and still is the individual for himself and not the group. The school desk nailed to the floor circumscribes the space for the individual. The school grade represents an endeavor to get pupils together who are so near alike that they may be treated as an individual. The cry for extremely small classes, the exclusiveness of the small private school, the employment of tutors, all stand for efforts made toward the education of the individual for himself practically in a state of isolation. The dead and persistent drill upon the three R's backed up by the birch, by marks, by bribes, by promises of promotion, by threats and by cajolery has but a feeble socializing power. It is on the contrary essentially individualistic in the unwholesome rivalry which it always promotes.

If any one doubts the barrenness of the social life in our schools let him read as I have done in this the past few days the reminiscent records of students now in the university in which they narrate their experiences in the elementary schools. They tell of a dreary round of lesson learning with a little variation here and there as to the stimuli used, all of which were classed as either personal rewards or personal punishments. It was all summed up admirably by one student who said: "We always had text-books, and definite lessons were learned each day and recited, as it seems now, to the teacher because we invariably looked at the teacher while reciting and tried to see some mark of approval on her face." In the entire series of papers there is not a single instance noted when there was any attempt made to establish relations of helpfulness among the pupils themselves. There is, however, considerable mention of various means employed, by the teacher to keep the pupils in a state of isolation from each other. As a matter of fact some of the most elaborate and artistically stupid parts of the school machinery have been especially devised for the purpose of keeping pupils from mutual assistance; whereas, the thing above all else de-