Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/135

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
131
SCHOOL ORGANIZATION AND INSTRUCTION

organization bears no resemblance to that arbitrary aggregation known as a 'grade.'

The effect of the present grading system upon the treatment of subject-matter has been pernicious. It has led to endless attempts at cross-sectioning subjects, in order that certain portions may be trimmed down to fit the pigeon-holes of the grades. This is reflected in thousands of text-books, and there is scarcely a subject that has not been marred by the ill-advised analysis.

The evils of arbitrary grading are not less marked in their effects upon the teacher. The notion that each grade must have its method is most persistent at the two extremes—the kindergarten and the high school. Those entering a course of training for the kindergarten are loath to trouble themselves with what lies beyond; and the would-be high-school teacher is apt to regard a suggestion that he look into the nature of elementary instruction as a reflection upon his intelligence.

The influence of the grading system upon the pupil is necessarily bad. It retards his progress through the elementary school, and it fosters selfishness. In the wake of the grade, trail many evils that fret the children. Not the least of these are the marking system and formal examinations, which have done more to introduce and foster knavery during the impressionable years of childhood than all other agencies combined. Under such unphilosophic and arbitrary stimuli to action, it matters not how hard he may try, no pupil can grow up wholly honest or unselfish.

Grouping of pupils under the ideals of the new education rests upon a principle radically different from that which now prevails. Under the old ideals, the children must exert themselves to excel each other. Under the new, members of a group must exert themselves to help each other. In the former, the work is so planned that each must strive for the same thing—the very same bone; in the latter that—as in the building of the house—the best effort of each is a needed contribution to the welfare of all. Each, therefore, must encourage and support the other. It is the operation of this principle that at once divides the light from darkness, that lifts civilization out of barbarism, that filters righteousness from iniquity, and that will finally give us the ideal school. The problem of grading and grouping of pupils will be solved when the children are permitted to plan work for themselves that demands cooperation. It must be for an end that no one by himself can attain, that, in school as well as out, the principle may be established that no one can live unto himself alone. That is the supreme fact in democracy.

The reorganization of the schools on the basis of community life makes an imperative demand for a new type of trained teachers. Academic training has been amply provided for and it hereafter will