Popular Science Monthly/Volume 37/May 1890/Secondary School Programmes-French and American

1154062Popular Science Monthly Volume 37 May 1890 — Secondary School Programmes-French and American1890George W. Beaman



THE general subject of American secondary school programmes has been of late years a most prolific one. What with the relative or particular importance of the mother-tongue, classical studies, history, modern languages, and, more recently, manual training, the educational essayist has been rather embarrassed by the multitude of the topics presented him. As the result of much discussion, contention, and wordy warfare, we have, however, to-day, certain secondary school programmes, generally speaking quite similar in their character, marking in a more or less defined manner the routes along which our boys are traveling on their respective journeys to college, to scientific school, or to practical business life. While there is to be noted a decided advance and improvement in pedagogical methods in our secondary schools within the last few decades, it yet remains true that no intelligent reader of the programmes, as exhibited in the catalogues of our leading endowed fitting schools, and public grammar and high schools, can fail to be struck by a certain lack of co-ordination, system, and, in most instances, by an apparent want of a genuine appreciation of the real demands that the present age makes upon modern secondary schools. Once outside the old fixed limits of the classics, there is to be observed much disagreement among the schools themselves, both as to the proper subjects to be included in the programme and the relative time to be devoted to the studies that are placed in the school curriculum. When comparison of these programmes with those of other countries is made, we have at once afforded us a most striking exemplification of how far we still are in this country from any well-defined consensus as to what the modern secondary school programme really should be. In view of the revolutionary period through which the schools have been passing during the past thirty years, this is perhaps hardly to be wondered at. The broadening of the college requirements for entrance, largely brought about by the demands of a public sentiment, no longer fully satisfied with purely mediæval curricula, has in itself served to call for many modifications of the secondary schools' programme. With Harvard and Johns Hopkins opening their doors to students unequipped with the traditional Greek, there has of course arisen a demand for preparation in other prerequisites which have necessarily been substituted for Greek. In response to the general outcry for them, the courses in modern languages, in the mother-tongue, history, and particularly in science studies, have had to be greatly extended or recast. The many admirable scientific schools and colleges throughout the country have made demands for special preparation that have had to be met. Furthermore, it has come to pass that the college prerequisites in the old classical studies even have been very considerably increased. Altogether it may be stated that the demands made upon the preparatory schools to-day are probably at least twenty-five or thirty per cent in excess of the demands of twenty-five or thirty years ago. Coincident with this multiplication and extension of preparatory studies, there has arisen in our country a sentiment which to no inconsiderable extent has reduced the hours devoted to study. A few decades since a boy fitting for college with its limited requirements in Latin, Greek, and mathematics, spent six hours per diem in school, and, as a matter of course, expected to give two, three, or possibly more hours to study at home. Now, he spends four or five hours in the school-room; and the sight of a text-book under his arm as he idly saunters homeward excites comment in the community as to the severe mental strain to which school-children are nowadays subjected by rigorous masters.

The result of all this is a state of affairs to which President Eliot, of Harvard University, has recently invoked the serious attention of the American public[1] He states that the average age of admission to Harvard University has been gradually rising for many years, and has now reached the extravagant age of eighteen years and ten months. He also notes that in view of the increased time required for the completion of his professional education, after leaving college, it follows that a man, thoroughly preparing himself for life, finds himself unprepared for self-support much before he is twenty-seven years old. This result is by no means peculiar to Harvard or to Harvard graduates, but holds true as to all colleges in the United States. Its remedy, in the opinion of President Eliot, is in both shortening and enriching our secondary school courses of study. As illustrating what other countries have succeeded in doing in this direction, he cites the school courses of France. The hours of recitation of these courses, less elaborate and difficult than those of Germany, are, he claims, so far as hours of recitation are concerned, substantially the same as those of this country; yet, under them, the French boy is better prepared for matriculation at seventeen years of age than ours are at nineteen. He therefore calls for a serious examination of the programmes of l'enseignement secondaire classique of France in comparison with the programmes of American preparatory schools, as likely to yield results which, can not but be conducive to educational progress in this country.

As might be expected from the eminence of its author, the paper of President Eliot has excited much interest in regard to the French secondary school programmes. Much comment has resulted both as to the facts and the conclusions arrived at. The facts represented in the address as to the age of matriculates in American colleges are only too patent. The defects of the programmes of the preparatory schools of this country are unfortunately equally patent. The great need of some readjustment of existing methods of our fitting schools and schools of grammar and even primary grades, for the benefit of boys preparing for modern collegiate, scientific, and university training, is so imperative that no friend of educational advance in this country can fail to welcome this valuable contribution to the literature of the subject given by the President of Harvard University. But, notwithstanding his admirable paper, and the comment which has followed, so far as one can judge from the literature of the controversy, no one has apparently made haste to follow President Eliot's advice and make any serious comparative examination of the French and American school programmes. On the contrary, there are indications that, with true American inconsequence, many persons are already either clamoring for the adoption of the French curricula forthwith, as a panacea for all our secondary school deficiencies, or, with great lack of knowledge and accurate information, are condemning them outright as a foreign growth quite unsuited to American soil. This is to be regretted; for assuredly the comparative study of the programmes of the two countries would give American school boards and American parents much information that should be known and accurately known. This examination is additionally desirable from the fact that, in his felicitous presentation of some characteristics of the lyce'e curriculum, Dr. Eliot seems to have omitted to note some of the more important features of the programmes that give them their strength, and has quite failed to point out how it happens that the French boy is really enabled to pass his examinations for the baccalauréat ès lettres at the early age of seventeen years. It may also be said that the examination is likewise desirable for the reason that President Eliot has inadvertentlv made some statements as to the French courses of study that the official programmes hardly seem to warrant.

In the present paper the attempt will be made to present, in a somewhat more precise manner than has been undertaken by President Eliot, certain details of the curricula of not only the classical lycées, but also of the secondary special schools of France. In connection with this, the attempt will also be made to exhibit, with, equal precision, some facts as to comparative courses in vogue in typical preparatory schools of the United States. Following the suggestion of Dr. Eliot, particular reference will be made to the Public Grammar and Public Latin School of the city of Boston. To obtain the requisite data the writer has first tabulated the hours of recitation per week entering into the enseignement secondaire classique and the enseignement secondaire spécial of France. These tables have then been brought into comparison with similar tables, prepared on precisely the same plan, of the courses of study in both the classical and scientific departments of certain typical fitting schools in the United States. The hours of recitation having been made the unit of the tabulation, the tables thus exhibit the total number of recitations in every subject taught, each year, and for the entire course of every school subjected to this examination. From the resultant figures the percentage of each study to the whole course has been also derived. The data as to the French courses were collated from the latest official programmes of the schools, as prescribed by the order of January 22, 1885, for the classical lycées,[2] and by the order of August 10, 1886, for the secondary special schools,[3] The data as to American schools were derived from information supplied by the head masters of the schools in question. The result of this tabulation has been to exhibit in full relief the curricula of both countries, and to bring into graphic view some very striking points of difference in the courses of study as carried out in the French and American schools, as well as to expose many singular differences of practice obtaining in our own schools. The large space that these tables would occupy precludes their publication in connection with this paper, but the methods of compilation are here mentioned, in order that such statements as may be made by the writer as to the details of the courses of instruction in both countries may be depended on as being as absolutely correct as a careful and conscientious tabulation can make them.

The programmes thus compared, at once exhibit two most important facts to which President Eliot has made no reference whatsoever, viz.: that if a boy in France is prepared for matriculation at seventeen years of age, instead of nineteen, as with us, it is due (1) to the fact that, between the ages of eight and seventeen, the French boy devotes more time to study than the American boy; and (2) to the further fact that, with his increased amount of reading, the French lad has had eliminated from his preparatory course the serious study of subjects considered by the French, school authorities non-essential to that particular course, but which with us are still firmly intrenched in every preparatory school programme; in brief, that the results obtained under the French programmes, in both the classical and scientific preparatory schools, are due to honest hard work, persistently continued for a term of years on a well-defined plan, which is characterized by a complete disjunction of the courses that lead to college, from those that are intended for youth for whose anticipated career in life a knowledge of the classical languages is not deemed essential.

A comparative examination of the programmes of the Boston Latin School with the French lycée course brings out this excess of hours in the French school very prominently. The French boy, in his ten years' sojourn in the lycée, spends 8,560 hours in the recitation-room, while in the corresponding course in Boston[4] the recitation hours are 7,790 only. With a ten-per-cent excess in recitation hours, and a corresponding increase of study, it is evident that the two courses can not be considered "as substantially of the same strength." However much we might "enrich" our curricula by imitating French methods, it seems quite clear that we certainly could not, by this process, hope to "shorten" them any.

Turning to the relative assignment of time to the subjects taught in common by the two schools, there is to be noted also one other point where the statistics and Dr. Eliot are at variance. One searches in vain for that "preponderance" of time given to the French language in the lycées as compared with the instruction in the English language in the Boston Latin School. In fact, the "preponderance" is, on the contrary, altogether on the side of the Boston schools, where over twenty-eight per cent of the whole course is devoted to the mother-tongue, to only 20·8 per cent in the lycées. This is an interesting fact, which will doubtless be surprising to most readers. It is a prevalent opinion in the United States that in our schools too little time is devoted to the study of our own language. And lest it may be urged that this "preponderance" is offset by the nine hours' course per week in philosophy, given in the last year, where, President Eliot states, "French resumes almost exclusive possession of the programme," it may be said that, according to the official programme, this claim can not be legitimately made. The course of philosophy in question embraces the elements of psychology, logic, morals, and metaphysics, with a study of the principal schools of philosophy and the various philosophical authors. In connection with the last-mentioned branch of the course, as is natural, considerable prominence is given to the French philosophical writers, and one hour per week of the nine is expressly devoted to the Latin and Greek authors. This course of philosophy, admirable as it is, and interesting as (perhaps) it may be to the average youngster of seventeen years, can in no sense be properly classed as an adjunct to the mother tongue instruction, except in so far as history, geography, or any other branch of study, carried on in the vernacular, can be so considered. In the programme it is very properly classified by itself.

Referring to the courses in modern languages, there is certainly here no question as to where the preponderance lies. In the French lycée the living languages are made prominent from the preparatory year, and the strength of the course developed in the first three years. The total is 1,000 hours, or 11·7 per cent of the whole hours, compared with 380 hours, or 4·9 per cent only in the Boston Latin School. Latin and Greek, which naturally form the piéces de résistance of the French classical course, are, as one might expect, much more prominent than with us. The Latin is begun in cinquieme, the pupil eleven' years of age, with ten hours of recitation per week, and is continued with reduced hours for six years, giving a total of 1,500 hours, against 1,293 hours at the Boston Latin School. In the last year (classe de philosophie) the technical study of Latin is omitted, but, as above stated, one hour per week of the nine allotted to philosophy is devoted to Greek and Latin authors, the original texts being freely employed. Greek is begun in the second term of the fourth year of the course, the pupil twelve 'years of age, with two hours per week for the rest of the year, and is continued through the classe de rhétorique. Taken together, the Greek and Latin recitations of the French course occupy 2,340 hours, contrasted with 1,805 hours in the Boston Latin School.

The importance attached to drawing in the French scheme of instruction is shown by the considerable time devoted to it. This is in most striking contrast to the almost general neglect of this important branch of education, not only at the Latin School of Boston, but at nearly all classical fitting schools in the United States. In the French lycée 7'9 per cent of the whole course is devoted to drawing; in the Boston Latin School the percentage is 2·9.[5]

Among the various illustrations of the difference of the two programmes, none is more interesting than that of the relative number of hours devoted to mathematics in the French and American courses. The figures are as follows: French lycée, 740 hours; Boston Latin School, 1,387 hours. The French boyarrives at the end of his classical preparatory course of study, having been subjected on an average to less than two hours of recitation per week in mathematical subjects. The average American pedagogue would certainly rise with protests deep, and disgust profound, if ever it were proposed to him to fit a boy for college with an allowance of only 8·7 per cent of the whole school course for his arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.[6] Yet this is precisely what the French do—in their classical course. In the Boston representative course the percentage is 17·8 per cent.

As the treatment of mathematics in the French classical course, with the limited time allotted to this study, is of general interest, a résumé of it is given here. In the preparatory class of the lycée, as well as in the classe de huitième following, the allotted time is devoted to simple arithmetical work in whole numbers, mental work, and to the solving of easy problems. In septième (third year of the course) are added decimal numbers and the metric system, with drawing of geometrical figures. In the next year there is a review of work oh whole numbers, a continuation of mental exercises and problems, and decimals; work on fractions is entered upon, and elementary geometry is begun. In the succeeding year arithmetic is continued, with the study of the rule of three, interest, discount, with simple problems in alligation, a detailed review of the metric system, and with further very elementary geometrical exercises. In quatrième, theoretical geometry is begun, with one recitation per week. In troisième, the two hours per week are devoted to a review of arithmetical subjects, elementary algebra is begun, and geometry is continued. In classe de rhétorique (ninth year of the course), two hours a week are devoted to recitations in solid geometry and cosmography; and in the last year (classe de philosophic), four hours per week, are devoted to a complete review of the work of the previous years in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.

It must be admitted that in this country the mathematical instruction, sketched above, would be thought to afford a somewhat meager outfit for a young man intending to present himself for examination at any of our American colleges, with their present mathematical prerequisites. It is also obvious that the French, who, according to President Eliot, "are quite as skillful with numbers as the Americans," do not gain a skill in "ciphering" in the classical lycée course. This proficiency is obtained elsewhere, as will be further shown. The French are, indeed, not only skillful with numbers, but are as a nation eminent for their mathematical ability; and their management of the much-vexed problem of the relative time to be devoted to elementary mathematical branches in the classical fitting schools commends itself to the serious consideration of American educators. A comparative exhibit of the classical lycée and Boston School courses clearly shows that it is to the excess of hours of recitation as a whole, and in no small degree to the holding of mathematical studies in abeyance, that the French are enabled to accomplish what they do in the way of bringing their boys to college at an early age. Give to the Boston course, for instance, ten-per-cent increase of recitations, plus the difference existing at present between the respective hours given to mathematical studies in the lycée and Latin School courses, and we have 1,426 hours. This is more time than is at present devoted to Latin, in the Boston Latin School, during its entire six years' course. It still more closely represents the difference in the respective hours given in the two countries to modern languages and drawing, with the hours of the entire course in philosophy added. It clearly follows—reversing the point of view—that Harvard has but to slightly reduce its requirements in mathematics to the French lycée standard, to enable it to obtain from its matriculates—those coming at least from the Boston Latin School—not only the attainments in philosophy considered so desirable by its president, but also considerable proficiency in such other branches of the French programme as its honorable faculty may "elect" to receive.

With the present public sentiment, and especially in view of the present requirements in mathematics on the part of American colleges, it is not probable that we can look for a reduction in mathematical studies in our classical preparatory courses to the point exhibited by the programmes as existing in France. But that the protest against the excessive and unnecessary time given to mathematical instruction in all our schools which has begun, will continue, none can doubt. As is well known, no primary or secondary school programme of this country can be scratched without revealing an omnipresent Tartar known as arithmetic. This mathematical Cossack is ever found firmly settled in his saddle, and foraging for subsistence hither and yon, upon friend and foe alike. The result is, that in the classical preparatory school the boy is hampered and handicapped by serious mathematical studies which absorb time that he could more profitably devote to his mother-tongue, to modern languages, and to science studies. On the other hand, in the scientific or English courses, the pupil fitting for the scientific school, or for business, is forced to take unwelcome draughts of Latin. These last are somewhat diluted, it is true, and are given perhaps on the general principle entering into the administration of certain family medicines, viz., that if not of any direct service to the patient, they can do him no possible harm. But in point of fact, while as a rule the Latin given in these brief courses can be of little or no value to a pupil fitting for the scientific school, time is taken from subjects having a direct personal bearing on his future career. It is interesting to note how, in France, this feature of instruction is managed.

A French boy having passed through the grades of the lycée classique, as exhibited in the preceding table, and intending to devote himself to a literary profession, proceeds without further ado to his examination for the baccalauréat ès lettres wherein mathematics plays but a subordinate part, as is indicated by the small percentage of time given it in the lycée course. But, for the benefit of graduates designed for the national schools, or for those who prefer to present themselves for examination for the baccalauréat ès science instead of ès lettres post-graduate lycée mathematical courses are instituted. The classe de mathématiques élémehtaires, for instance, has for its object the study of matters comprised in the programmes of the baccalauréat ès sciences, as well as those of the military (Saint-Cyr), the naval, and forestry schools and the central school. The curriculum of this class devotes seven and a half hours per week to mathematics, four and a half hours to science studies, two each to the mother tongue, Latin and modern languages, three hours to history and geography, one hour to philosophy, and four hours to drawing. This course is of but one year. It is usually taken by pupils from the classe de rhétorique, but may be taken by pupils from the classe de philosophie who wish to review and increase their mathematical attainments. A much stiffer and more comprehensive drill in mathematics is afforded by the classe de mathématiques spéciales. This course is also of but one year. The instruction given in this class has for its object the preparation of pupils who have completed the lycée course, and who purpose entering the polytechnic, the superior, or the central schools. None are admitted to this course who have not previously manifested an aptitude for it. The hours of recitation per week are, mathematics eleven hours, descriptive geometry three hours, physics and chemistry five hours, natural history three hours, French language two hours, modern languages two hours, history and geography three hours, and drawing two hours; total, thirty-one hours.

The instruction to-day given in France under the name of l'enseignement secondaire spécial has found a secure footing only after many years of violent discussion and constant opposition. Its career, however, has been steadily advancing and gaining in public consideration ever since its organization in 1865. Its programme was extended and revised in 1881, and in 1886 it was organized on its present basis. The courses of study have been framed with especial reference to the requirements of a large class of pupils of good social position, who have neither the desire, the tastes, nor perhaps the leisure for long years' study of dead languages. It is a response to the needs of a large class for a preparation for actual life in various careers, which the classical courses are incapable of giving. The school is in a sense the Realschule of the French, differing from its German congener, however, by the entire elimination of Latin from its programme. The course comprises six years of study, crowned, at its successful termination, by the diploma of bachelier de l'enseignement secondaire spécial, the possession of which entitles the holder to admission to the examinations for the baccalauréat ès sciences, for the military school of Saint-Cyr, and, with the exception of the Polytechnic School, which still holds to its classical requirements, to other national schools with requirements of a general similar character.

However interesting, as an illustration of French school methods, the curriculum of the secondary special schools may be, the severity of the course, as a whole, renders it unlikely that it will ever be very closely imitated in this country. The recitations here range from twenty-five to twenty-nine hours per week, giving, for the whole course, 6,360 hours, against 4,3601/2 hours in the American representative of the same type of school.[7] The official programme shows that the instruction of these 6,360 recitation hours are distributed as follows: Mother-tongue, 1,000; modern languages, 1,160; history, 360; geography, 280; mathematics, 1,080; science studies, 960; drawing, 960; penmanship, 160; bookkeeping, 80; morals, 40; legislation, 80; political economy, 40; philosophy, 160. The ages of the pupils average eleven years in the first and sixteen in the last class. The recitation hours of a pupil passing through the last two grades of the grammar school, and the four years' course of the English High School in Boston are, barring certain changes on account of options, as follow: Mother-tongue, 1,1111/2; modern languages, 494; history, 570; geography, 152; mathematics, 722; drawing, 760; book-keeping, 95.

Here, again, as in the case of the French classical lycée course, the instruction in the mother-tongue is found to be less than in the American representative school. The hours devoted to modern languages (1,160) are, in fact, somewhat in excess of those given to French (1,000), and, it may be added, are in most marked contrast to the time allotted to the same study in the Boston High-School programme (494), even after the latter has received a credit under this head for a certain number of hours that in point of fact are used by many pupils for Latin.

Mathematics, which, as has been seen, plays but a subsidiary rôle in the classical lycée course, in the secondary special course assumes more prominence comparatively, the average being 41/2 hours against 31/2 hours' recitation per week in the typical American programme. Yet even here it is not up to what may be termed the United States standard. A tabulated exhibit of the hours of the classical courses of the two countries shows that an average of only one hour and fifty minutes per week is given to mathematics in the classical lycée course, compared with an average of three hours and forty minutes in the Boston classical school course. A comparison of that course with the French secondary special programme develops also the fact that a typical American classical school not only devotes more hours to mathematics than the French consider essential for a preparatory scientific course, but also exhibits the further surprising fact that the Boston English High-School course, with two years of grammar-grade school prefixed to it, actually gives less time to mathematics than is devoted to that study in the six years' course proper of the Latin School. And this is not by any means peculiar to the Boston school courses. The programmes of other schools exhibit a treatment of the mathematical subjects quite similar. At Phillips Exeter precisely the same number of hours is given to mathematics in the classical and scientific courses. At Williston, even after adding the course in surveying to the mathematics, the percentage of the latter to the whole course is less than on the classical side.

From the data here given it seems clear that if we are to hope to pnt our schools on anything like an equality with those of France, to say nothing of those of other civilized countries of the world, certain modifications of our school programmes have certainly to be made. First and foremost among those changes there would seem to be indicated a need for a certain specialization of our school courses with reference to the different demands made upon the schools by different classes of pupils. That our schools of primary and secondary grade, as they stand to-day, do not respond to the varied requirements of American society, seems quite obvious. The complaint of President Eliot sufficiently indicates their shortcomings, so far as a preparation for college is concerned. For many years professors and teachers at scientific and technical schools have mourned the dearth of preparatory schools that should give them pupils not handicapped by great deficiencies in training of the powers of observation. Business men are quite unanimous in their belief that the schools do not afford a satisfactory training for commercial pursuits, while he who runs may read their many deficiencies for the constantly increasing class of pupils whose period of school life terminates in the grammar grade.

The main cause of the present stage of development of the school system is not so deeply hidden that one has to search long for it. The average American school programme at the present time is simply a living illustration of a development, on American lines—influenced and modified by national characteristics—of the old educational theory that literature and language are the basis of all mental culture and training. The educational structure reared on this theory, beset and more or less damaged by modern assaults, has been repaired here and patched there, but the old framework and the old foundations have ever remained to cramp intelligent reconstruction and practical reform. The result is in the main a hotchpotch with which no one is thoroughly satisfied. It would seem to be a clear case of the old house repaired and refurnished, until it is satisfactory to no one. It is passing strange that the school system of the United States, in respect to its want of specialization, should stand almost unique among the many examples of the national aptitude in adopting means to ends. In business life, in professional life, in industrial pursuits, our nation has shown itself peculiarly clever in its concentration of labor in systematic, well-defined channels having special reference to the results to be attained. Yet, when we come to compare our school programmes with those of other nations, we not only find that we do not do as much school work, nor as satisfactory work, but that what we do is done in an antiquated and unscientific manner. In France, for example, we find a school system that in its superior primary course gives to the child of the humblest artisan not only a solid foundation in all essentials of mother-tongue instruction, but, by means of its complementary courses, in manual training and modern languages as well. We likewise find a clean-cut, well-defined course in the special secondary schools for the child who seeks preparation for commercial or professional life by modern methods; while, by the systematic arrangement of its classical lycée course, results are achieved which excite the admiration and envy of the president of one of our most honored universities. Turning to our own programmes, we find what can only be characterized as a more or less futile effort to build on one foundation several distinct structures, each one of which is diverse in the special ends sought to be accomplished. In our effort to do everything, we have failed to do anything sufficiently well to entitle it to favorable comparison with the results attained by a more skillful apportionment of labor.

We can also learn from the French programmes that if American schools are to accomplish results comparable with those attained in France, American children have not only to work on more specialized lines, but have also to work more. There can be no doubt that the outcry against "long school hours" and "home study," which for many years past has been so resonant in this country, has seriously affected the efficiency of our schools. As the exhibit of school programmes here given shows, the average hours of recitation in American fitting schools are very considerably less than in those of France. And those of France are to about an equal degree less than the hours of' the German gymnasia and Realschulen. It is full time that a halt be called on the further progress of this absurd clamor. The idea that a healthy American boy, between the age of eight and fifteen years, let out of school, as he generally is in these days, at from one to two o'clock, should not do a certain amount of systematic study at home, certainly can but be characterized as absurd. It is probable that but few persons, who have not made special inquiry in regard to it, appreciate the extent to which this sentiment against out-of-school study now prevails in this country. If it has had the effect of crippling the public schools, it may be said that it has really paralyzed many private ones where this feeling is pandered to. The advanced age of pupils entering the private fitting schools, as well as the advanced age of college matriculates, is to a great extent due to this disinclination of parents to submit their children to regular systematic study in their earlier school life. In collecting the data for this paper the writer has been pleased to ascertain that on the part of certain endowed home fitting schools established on recent foundations, direct efforts are being made to counteract these deficiencies of earlier years by a systematic regulation of pupils' time—both as regards study and recreation. The result, as could be anticipated, is a marked broadening of the school course, as well as a decided decrease in the ages of the senior class pupils. It is because of the possibilities in this direction, as well as to respond to the rapidly increasing demand in the United States for them, that thoroughly good preparatory home schools, which shall fit boys for college and scientific school in a rational manner, are now especially in request. The average home school that fits for everything or anything, and that is a fraud from its glossy catalogue to its ornate diploma, is sufficiently well known to the average parent, and is not here alluded to. The home schools now needed to meet our modern requirements can have an existence only by virtue of some man or men willing to liberally endow them. It would seem, too, that the ideal preparatory home school should embrace at least six years of instruction. It should be fully equipped and prepared in all respects to respond thoroughly to the three distinct demands that are now made upon the modern fitting school, viz.: (1) preparation for college with all the maximum requirements in the classics; (2) preparation for college without Greek, but with adequate modern language and science-study substitutions; (3) preparation for the scientific school without Latin or Greek, but with equivalent and honest substitutions of somewhat increased mathematical instruction (as compared with the classical branches), together with modern languages and science studies, so taught that in all respects of severity of course they shall equal in disciplinary results the drill given in the classical courses.

To the response that may be made, to the effect that we already have preparatory schools doing precisely this work, and doing it well, it is claimed that the few facts presented in connection with this paper are in themselves a sufficient refutation. There is another point. The writer would be among the last to impugn the ability, the conscientious devotion, the peculiar fitness, even, of the heads, and, generally speaking, of the staffs of these classical schools, for he has the highest appreciation of them. But the fact remains that, with hardly an exception, the faculties of the old classical preparatory schools that have been erected on the old endowments seem to be incapable of giving absolutely fair and honest treatment to their so-called preparatory scientific or English adjuncts. They are bound hand and foot in the old traditional bonds. By reason of their educational bias they are precluded from yielding a hearty, enthusiastic response to any demand that a classical curriculum does not meet. In point of fact, why should they? They have personally no faith whatever in the real value of any training except that gained by the study of the classics. They appreciate that the scientific course is but a graft on the old trunk, made in great measure for the pecuniary advantage of their establishment, and in response to a popular demand, which they hope and pray may soon find a speedy death. They have no hesitation in proselytizing in the ranks of the brighter "scientific" pupils sent them, for the benefit and glory of the "full rounded course"—in embryo. Here again they are justified, for the preparatory scientific courses are in fact but indifferent patchwork compromises between the claims of the past and the demands of the present. These courses really do give no thorough secondary school work in any one subject, except possibly mathematics. With an apparently semi-superstitious feeling as to the mysterious results produced on the human mind by communion with a Latin grammar, for even a limited period, little dabs of Latin have been introduced into these courses. This study extends in the scientific course of some preparatory schools through one year, sometimes two, rarely three years. With no desire whatever to depreciate the undoubted value, to certain pupils, of an honest, bona fide study of the classical languages, continued for years, it is submitted that these cursory courses of Latin can give no results in any way commensurate with the time expended on them. In Germany the classicists have ever stoutly maintained that any reduction of hours devoted to Latin in the gymnasium course would deprive it of all value; yet they there give to it nine hours per week for five years, and eight hours for four years more. In the Realschulen they devote to it eight hours a week for two years, six hours for three, and five hours for four years. The value that the German school authorities would place upon a course of Latin of three or four hours per week for one, two, or even three years, affords a pretty little arithmetical problem whose solution is respectfully relegated to the designers of these American courses. Beyond this Latin and the regulation four or five hours a week in mathematics, what else does one find in our preparatory "scientific" courses? As but few of the more modern scientific schools or schools of technology have requirements in Latin—and as one and all of them are desirous of obtaining from their matriculates all, and more than they often get, in the way of modern languages—one could properly expect that the fitting schools would afford opportunities for solid preparation in French and German. As will be seen, this demand is by no means well responded to. In the scientific courses of one prominent fitting school consulted by the writer, no instruction whatever in modern languages is given. In the programme of another of these schools—which is also the most modern, therefore lending some encouragement to the hope of more enlightened procedure as time rolls on—we find that modern languages enter into but three of the four years' course. Leaving the modern languages, and looking at the time devoted to science studies, the same desultory treatment is found. There is encouragement to be had in the assurances of laboratories erected and in course of erection, and in the information that in some fitting schools Harvard's requirements in experimental physics and chemistry can be fully met; but, so far as the curriculum itself of the scientific course is concerned, we have but the hope of something better in the future. If one glances at the time allotted to the education of the hand by means of drawing, or if one is curious in the matter of history and mother-tongue instruction, almost equally unsatisfactory work is encountered. Very properly, any intelligent parent, studying such courses with a view of submitting to one of them a boy whom he has decided to educate on modern methods, hesitates. It is not strange that in his extremity he finally concludes that a serious, well-defined course in the ancient languages is of more value than the olla podrida preparation presented him on the "scientific" side. As this is precisely what the makers of the programmes themselves believe, this conclusion is applauded—and there is rejoicing over the rescue of another boy from a "one-sided education"!

A comparative examination of French and American preparatory school programmes, therefore, at least yields this much; that our educational methods are in great need of thorough revision if we are to hope to stand well alongside the French in all that pertains to judicious preparation for college, for scientific school, or for the general demands of modern life. This examination further shows that we stand in pressing need not only of fitting schools that meet these demands as they exist to-day, but so untrammeled and free from all sort of sectarian or educational bias that they can freely expand and respond to the demands that will assuredly follow as years roll by, and colleges and universities still further yield to the influences that are slowly but surely liberating them from the traditions of the past. An honest home fitting school, firmly founded on the principle of responding to the demands as they exist to-day—not as they existed a century or two ago—sufficiently endowed to render it free to maintain firmly all the requirements of its different rational courses of instruction, seems to be the great educational need of the day. As the weakest link of our educational chain lies most undoubtedly in the earlier years of the preparatory course, this school should be prepared to take pupils at twelve years of age; it would be better if they could be taken at ten, and the course be made to embrace eight years instead of six. It should be a home school, for the reason that, with the prevailing habits of American family life, it is becoming with us every day more and more impossible to obtain from pupils the proper amount of work, associated with the proper regime as to exercise and recreation—and diet even—so long as they remain under the parental roof. Such a school could not fail to soon stand as an exponent of the development of a higher, better, and truer secondary education. It would be a model for the encouragement of other schools of a similar character that would soon come into existence, and it would make its impress upon the programmes of public secondary schools. Any man of wealth who is animated by the ambition of sending his name down to a grateful posterity linked with a noble educational benefaction, could not to-day find a more deserving field for the investment of a spare million than in the founding of such a school. To the colleges, to the universities, to the schools of industrial science, would the money thus invested be of as great benefit as if donated directly to them. For, as the gentle rain sinking far down into the earth among the rootlets refreshes and revives the mature tree, so would a preparatory school of this character give to the higher institutions of learning strength at a vital point where it is peculiarly needed.

  1. A paper read before the Department of Superintendence of the National Educational Association at Washington, February 16, 1888, published in the Atlantic Monthly, August, 1888. Remarks before the Commercial Club, Providence, R. I., March, 1889.
  2. Plan d'Études des Lycées—Programmes de l'Enseignement classique. Paris: Maison Delalain Frères.
  3. Plan d'Études et Programmes de l'Enseignement secondaire spécial dans les Lycées et Colleges present par Arêté du 10 Aout, 1886. Paris: Maison Delalain Frères.
  4. The programme of the Boston Latin School, embracing six years of study, and that of the French lycées ten years, there have been prefixed to the tables of the Latin School—for purposes of comparison—the recitation hours of four years of the grammar-school courses preliminary to it. All references to the Latin School courses in this paper will, therefore, be understood as embracing the result of tabulation of ten years' school work—not that of the six years' course of the Latin School proper.
  5. In the Latin School proper no instruction in drawing is given. The percentage referred to is derived from the preceding grammar-school courses.
  6. The percentage of hours devoted to recitations in mathematics, in such typical fitting schools of the United States as have supplied data to the writer, is as follows: Boston Latin School (with four years' grammar-school course added), 17·8 per cent. Boston English High School (with two years' grammar-school course added), 16·6 per cent. Phillips Academy Exeter, N. H., classical course, 26·5 per cent; scientific course, 26·9 per cent. Williston Seminary, Easthampton, Mass., classical course, 26·7 per cent; scientific course, 25·7 per cent. Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., classical course, 25·7 per cent; scientific course, 28·8 per cent. St. Paul's School, Concord, N. H., classical course, 24·9 per cent; scientific course, 27·8 per cent. Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, N. J., classical course, 17 per cent; scientific course, 22·7 per cent. St. Mark's School, Southborough, Mass., exclusively classical, 21·6 per cent. Doubtless these percentages may, in some of the schools cited, be increased or decreased in the case of certain pupils; but they represent the mathematical courses as prescribed for the major portion of them. How strikingly the figures illustrate the different methods of treatment of the mathematical question, in the United States and France, will be understood when it is further stated that the percentage allowed to mathematics in the French lycée course is only 8·7 per cent, and in the secondary special course, where mathematical studies are considered by the French to be especially prominent, only 17 per cent.
  7. As the secondary special schools of France occupy about the same place in the French system as the upper classes of grammar schools and the English high schools occupy in ours, the French programmes of these schools have been brought by the writer into comparison with a typical American school—the courses of the two upper classes of the grammar schools and those of the English High School of Boston being employed as a fair American representative.