Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/129

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

for a time at the parting of the ways, and enables them during this period of wavering to escape the stupidity of the schools, on the one hand, and the heart-breaking conditions of business on the other.

It was a bad day for education when it got itself placed over against work; when it made work a penalty for the stupid and a punishment for the perverse who would not allow education to be breathed into them—and education is just finding out its colossal blunder. Figures from the fourth grade up show that, when it is solely a question of school or work, it is work that wins the contest, hands down. Of the hosts that enter the primary grade, practically all the children of all the people, by far too small a per cent, finish the eighth year; of these a still lesser per cent, go to the high school, and beyond this there is scarcely more than a negligible minority. This absorption of child-life by the world's work all takes place in the face of modern educational theory, our advanced views of culture, our legal enactments, and the truant officer!

Any fair test applied to a school will show two things: first, that the pupils are capable of far more productive work than is now called for and, second, that they are anxious for more of it. This fall this question was put to about two hundred. pupils from the sixth grade up: If the building were open to you after school, would you like to stay for extra work? What would you like to do and how much time would you use? In the replies received all but twelve or fifteen said they would like to stay from one half hour to two hours on from one to four days a week. The range of choice was practically all among the arts and crafts. Work in the wood shops was most popular, there being about sixty applicants for this, while work in metal, in clay, in textiles, bookbinding, printing, gymnastic dancing, photography and many others had a strong following.

Yet education is not wholly a matter of tasks. This is the pitfall that catches most of our critics who contrast the old with the new. If education were the result of tasks arbitrarily imposed; and if the old set tasks for the pupils that were difficult enough to hold them to the top notch of effort; and if the new levied only those that were so easy that the pupils became dawdlers, then the apostles of the present regime in school would have it their own way. But here is the difference that is world wide. The new, while rejecting the idea of imposing tasks arbitrarily, seeks to establish conditions which challenge the personal initiative. The old over-emphasizes attainment as a quantitative result: The new values attainment only as it represents a quality of mind that has acted through its own initiative. The old recognized as training and discipline the so-called voluntary attention which seemed to be mainly the ability to stare, ox-like, a disagreeable, uninteresting or unintelligible thing out of countenance. The new believes