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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 70/February 1907/The Relation of School Organization to Instruction



IN the text of an ancient story we are told that man was made out of the dust of the earth, and according to one version, at least, he was then leaned up against the fence to dry. Afterwards the breath of life was breathed into his nostrils and he became a living soul. This venerable myth, accepted in its substance as truth by a part of the human race for centuries, naturally lent its form to educational theory, and thus profoundly influenced the methods employed in training the young. From earliest times down to a generation ago education was a breathing-in process that simply continued and expanded the original act of creation. Then there arose a new conception concerning the making of a man and educational theory is slowly changing its form. Responding to influences from without, life is an unfolding process from within—this is the conception that is now shaping our methods of instruction.

The most interesting of all subjects of study is the evolution of evolution. That the development and maintenance of the organism depend upon its concessions to environment is a fact that has been recognized, in a general way, from the dawn of the evolutionary idea. The formal statement of the theory of evolution was long anticipated by the practical sense of the world in its knowledge of the dependence of the physical organism upon its material surroundings. But almost half a century has past since that doctrine was stated and even now we but dimly see its profound bearing upon the relation of the spiritual life to spiritual conditions. And the extreme newness of a certain phase of this higher aspect of evolution is evidenced by this meeting itself, which is perhaps the first ever called for the distinct purpose of considering the development of the social nature of the human being under the stimulus of social conditions.

The particular agency in social development that it is proposed to consider here is the school. It is not intended to deny that there are other agencies that have a similar purpose; it is the intention, merely, to maintain the thesis that within the range of its possibilities the school should be organized so that it may operate as a social institution; 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 demanded in society at large is that its members shall help each other to the utmost. The only places where mutual helpfulness is not recognized as being in every way worthy is in school and in prison; in this particular the teacher behind the desk and the guard mounted on the walls have something in common. It is most unfortunate that this tendency toward mutual assistance is treated as though it were an iniquity—as an especial brand of original sin; while, in fact, it is the latest dawning and most lovable, civilizing trait in human character.

The proposition to transform the school into a well-organized social institution is not merely a matter of abstract theory or pure science. It is a definite expression of a movement to make the schools in common with other agencies a positive force in bettering the conditions of life.

This proposition rests upon the foundation stone in human character that up to date has been rejected by the educational builders—namely, the natural tendency of children toward helpfulness. The spirit of consideration and helpfulness is what we most need in human life and the schools must cherish it in the children and train directly for it. The kindergarten, here as ever, is the best type of what we want in school life clear through the university. Go into any good kindergarten and note how gladly the children participate in the many opportunities for cooperation in living their simple and beautiful life. Go then into the upper grades, and into the high school, and into the university and observe how one by one those opportunities for participation in the upbuilding of the public weal have been withdrawn and mark the degenerative effect of this loss of opportunity upon the social qualities of the pupils!

There are in this country many universities that number from 1,000 to 5,000 students each year. These young people represent a virile period of human life, when hope is young, aspirations are keen and the will is dominant. But when taken in their totality, in their power or in their desire to organize as an influence upon any phase whatever of human affairs, they are as innocuous and as ineffective as a flock of sheep on a sunny hillside in April. There is not a university president, nor a professor, nor a university department of sociology, to my knowledge, that has ever yet organized the splendid native force of a great student body towards any public end that is worth the attention of an intelligent man. Nor does the student body itself show any such disposition to organize. The highest watermark that has yet been touched in fusing together the community forces in the great universities is represented by the college yell for the foot-ball team! No other state institution could so completely withdraw these thousands of young people from a consideration of the interests of public welfare.

Even in darkest Russia, with every influence against them, with no public school system, where blackest ignorance is the rule with the people, the student bodies in the universities represent perhaps the most powerful hostile influences with which despotism must contend.

This shows the power of student life when it organizes itself under the whip of a great, purpose, and it mercilessly exposes the enormous moral loss to society and the delinquencies of an educational theory which permits any diversion of these forces of youth from the work of upbuilding the social and national life.

The economic vandalism of our time can be charged to no one person or thing; but responsibility for it may be laid directly at the door of a school system which permits this social deterioration to begin in the earliest years and thence onward to increase in a steady ratio throughout the higher institutions of learning.

All schools, however, have always had some social life of a more or less organized character. In the plays and games outside of school hours; in the stolen whispers of the study and recitation periods; in the clandestine schemes laid for the discomfiture of the teacher; in the literary societies, and in many other ways, through the exercise of their social instincts, the pupils have managed to make their school days tolerable for themselves and, to a like extent, often intolerable for the teacher. But these aspects of school life have been, and still are, considered as diversions, as incidents and somewhat as detriments to what is called, in school parlance, the 'regular work.' It is largely due to this fact that in most schools the socializing process as yet remains inchoate.

There is a misconception, almost universal, concerning the organizing center of the school as a social body. Recognizing that in the past the chief organizing influence has come through the exercise of the play instinct, the unguarded inference is that it is now proposed to socialize the school through play alone; or, what comes to the same thing, by the introduction of work which shall be turned into play! It is through this perverted idea that the New Education stands charged with triviality in its methods and with a disregard for that robust discipline which comes through sturdy and purposeful work. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Students in the philosophy of education are slowly coming to understand that the spelling-book, as such; that the endless repetitions which usually accompany 'formal number'; that the struggle with words merely for the sake of a vocabulary in reading; that the wrestle with technical grammar as an introduction to the study of language—that all these and other subjects of like kind, as they generally appear in the schools, are essentially unsocial in their influence. Such students believe that herein lies a great obstacle to that reform which seeks to socialize the schools. If, however, this so-called work is to be removed from its present dominating position in the curriculum, it is as yet inconceivable to most people how there can be anything to take its place except play. It is only too true that in many schools where the old technical drills have been discarded, the teachers have been unable to find anything worthy to take their place, and there at once develops a tendency towards inferior social types of organization. These lower social units taking root readily in a school where many of the old arbitrary means of control have been abandoned, inevitably become immediately inimical to the broader interests of the school as a whole. In this condition of affairs we find that raison d'être for the fraternities and sororities in the high schools.

The prime necessity in the social organization of the school is that there shall be an abundance of those activities which are capable of yielding tangible results in worthy products having a common interest. The distinction usually drawn between the activity of play and the activity of work has neither meaning nor value in terms of growth. Both play and work may be good or bad, educative or otherwise; that depends alone upon the motive. The infallible test is found in the character of the output; it is a measure that anyone may apply with ease and directness when education is conceived to be a concern of the familiar things of life.

An educational activity with an organizing value is one which expresses itself through some helpful work. This is not a machinemade definition—it depends upon the nature of things. It is rooted in the fact that every child is a born worker and a lover of work. To work, to do things, to bring about results, useful and beautiful, is just as natural as it is for him to breathe the air. There are no lazy children, naturally. Catch them young and treat them right, and they are all workers and lovers of work. A lazy boy is merely either one who is sick, or one who does not like to do something which a 'grownup' thinks he should do; his indisposition, if not a matter for the physician, should be placed to his credit. A big boy came to my office one day who was too lazy, the teacher said, to be allowed to remain in school. I asked him what he would like to do if he were left entirely free to choose, and he replied: 'I would quit school and go to work!' I thanked him—inwardly—for his criticism, over which I have since deeply pondered. Doubtless the 'work' which this boy would be able to pick up in the streets would be as little to his taste as were the tasks left behind in the school. For the average employer rarely considers the soul-life of the employed. He stands a good chance of falling into the hands of a man who wants to get more gold out of dry goods and groceries than nature has put into them and he tries, therefore, to make up the deficit out of the boy. So between the teachers who do not know enough and the business men who do not care enough the lazy boys are easily turned into the path of the transgressor. Laziness is the merciful invention of nature, whereby she holds them 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 in the training and discipline that come from the pupil's effort to follow up from premise to conclusion, something which mightily interests him because of its worthy purpose. The old found satisfaction in a state of mind that was quietly receptive; the new sees hope in the turbulence of inquiry; and all of these are irreconcilable differences in kind.

When the work of the children springs from their own initiative, it will become essentially creative and not imitative. The theory that the educational process is imitative and not creative especially in the earlier and formative years of childhood is as old as psychology itself and in practise the proposition stands almost unchallenged. The average curriculum is formed on the idea that the pupils are imitators, the followers of directions, and not creators and it is consequently imposed. The daily lessons in scope and character, the methods of the recitations, the modes of expression are all prescribed and all the activities of the school are reduced as nearly as possible to that monotonous routine known to the devotee of system as 'regular work' which offers no play for the creative intelligence in either thought or deed.

The constructive idea now being realized in various forms of handwork is the thin end of the wedge that is opening the way to reform. Anything which involves the hand immediately arouses the creative instincts. Much of this work is still of the illustrative type, merely reproductive or imitative and in the beginning it was all of that character. In wood, for example, the 'exercises' were all once manacled to a set of models that made no claim upon creative powers either through their use or beauty.

At present, nearly all subjects in the curriculum make some application of the constructive idea. The lessons of history are vivified by reproducing typical creations of other days. Science becomes somewhat more real by the performance of experiments set by book and teacher. Mathematics has been improved through its applications to prescribed construction. Something of both the technique and the spirit of art is acquired by reproducing the work of the masters. This all represents a distinct improvement upon the old régime of books and lectures, and such exercises will always form an organic and necessary part of an educational system.

But the high-water mark in school-teaching will be reached only when such work becomes secondary because it is supplementary and subsidiary. Only when the dominant note of the school is clearly creative does it lay direct hold upon the vital and continuous interests of the children and become essentially educative.

This is true regardless of subject-matter or material on the one hand, and age or sex on the other, and to this fact some curious schoolroom phenomena are due. Parents frequently marvel that the boys of all ages delight in cooking and textiles, while the girls are equally interested in woodwork and other forms of heavier manual training. The reason, however, is clear. It is not that there is anything inherent in either the dough, or the cloth, or the wood, or the iron, but rather because the work under all these heads is largely creative. It is because an aim is set up that is unique; it is somewhat new because it is personal—it is because the ages-old materials must be combined to fit new occasions that the interest is enlisted and the best original efforts, and consequently the highest educational results, are obtained.

Every creative activity will have its artistic aspect; for when the soul enters a creation, then and there art is born. Art-forms are now rarely creative. They do little more than tickle the sense with the pleasures of a fleeting hour—and they are worth all they cost for that! But when the lives of the children are properly enriched, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, and the rest will come forth as creations—the radiant allies of speech. In language growing fluent and supple, the pupils will learn to wreathe in descriptive, dramatic and poetic forms the subtlest creations of which the human mind is capable.

Creative work transforms the individual. Through it, alone, he grows and maintains a personality that makes him different from others. Through it, alone, his generation rises above all that have preceded. Imitation is a training in conformity. It holds the creative instincts in abeyance until at maturity it is the exceptional man or woman who is not hopelessly bound by the shackles of convention. If he would ever create, he must override the prejudices ground into him by the schools, and, even then, the daring freedom of childhood but rarely comes again. The gospel of conformity teaches that the best has been done—that naught remains for us but imitation. This, too, in face of the practical fact that the discoveries of to-day have sent to the scrap-heap the brilliant inventions of yesterday! The effect is not less marked in the realm of morals. Generally speaking, the ethical code of the school has been copied from that which once served the purpose of the generation that developed it, but it is far below what, under present conditions, the pupils can create for themselves.

The final test as to the value of any piece of educational work in the development of children of whatever intellectual capacity is determined by their appreciation of its worth in meeting a natural demand. Unless their energies are constantly directed toward filling a recognized want, the pupils put forth their efforts in vain, and the routine of the school becomes merely the rattle and grind of empty machinery. Upon one trait in his pupils the teacher may forever reckon: they will always respond to a need which they can really feel and understand. A study of our city parks showed how impossible it was for certain useful and beautiful birds to find suitable nesting-places in the trees and shrubs. Forthwith practically every pupil in the school volunteered to make boxes for the nests. Whether the smaller children could make an entire box or not mattered but little; the strength of their want through a real sense of the need, coupled with the little they could do, added cubits to their moral stature.

A practical difficulty in the way of teaching children to realize their motives in some useful end, is that to many people it looks too much like common work; there are parents, therefore, who strenuously object. They say their children can get that at home, and that the school should stand for something else—for culture! This is a curious fact, in view of the glorification that labor is now receiving at the hands of the people. However, the large storekeepers do say that this great revival of enthusiasm for labor has not as yet appreciably increased the demand for overalls and jumpers. No one has reported, so far, that the cuts of these elegant and useful trappings of toil are appearing in the latest fashion plates of our high-class tailors. From this it may be inferred that with most people the labor question has not yet gone beyond the stage of academic discussion. Hence the difficulty of getting the pupils actually to work either in school or at home. Last year the children wished to have blooming plants in their school-room windows. They thought to improve matters by substituting for the unsightly pots the more beautiful creations of their own hands which they could easily make in the clay-room. Immediately a parent wrote that if our pupils could find nothing better to do than to make jardinières to beautify the University of Chicago he would take his son from the school—and he did! The kind of school which this type of parent really wants is one where his boy can insensibly acquire curvature of the spine, a sallow complexion, spectacles, and—culture! We have trade and technical schools that give education for the sake of labor; we must now have schools that give us labor for the sake of education.

To sum up, therefore, the resources of the school which the teacher may utilize in the development of a social organism we have on the part of the pupils (1) a natural spirit of helpfulness; (2) an inborn love of work; (3) a desire to take the initiative; (4) an ambition for creative work; and (5) an alertness of mind toward public" needs. Upon these foundation stones the social structure must be reared.

That these qualities of character may be normally developed, the curriculum must provide an abundance of suitable material; the class exercises must keep to the forefront matters of public interest and the entire organization must offer a maximum of freedom to the individual who thinks and works in the interest of the common welfare. Everyone recognizes these elements of character as being those which give us the highest type of citizenship in the community at large. It is interesting and pertinent to inquire why they do not give corresponding results in the school. People generally seem to understand that the school should reflect the interests of the community, but the traditions of the school are such that the instant an industry or an art is introduced into the schoolroom the tendency is to erect it at once into a 'subject of study.' This means to the average person that it must have its special teacher, its arbitrary place on the program, and in other ways take a definite setting in the curriculum. Now, there is a vast and an essential difference between this kind of so-called organization attempted by the school, and the actual organization which takes place in true community life. If, for example, under normal conditions, in the latter, a wagon is to be made, the various activities that contribute to that particular end are so correlated as to combine efficiency and economy. Everybody's efforts are directed to that result. There is just so much wood needed and no more. A premium is placed upon the endeavor to use as little as may be consistent with the character of the wagon desired. The same is true of the iron work—no more bolts or bands are made than are actually needed. So, also, it is with the paint; what the wood needs for its preservation and adornment is used, and nothing beyond. But bring these industries into school as 'handwork,' and we find only so many more 'subjects of study' that in some way must be juggled into an already overcrowded program; only so many more teachers that are to increase the wear and tear in already overwrought children. It is no longer a question of doing just as little as is needed, but as much as possible! It is as though the wagon-maker were to go ahead blindly and make a dozen wheels where only four can possibly be used; as though the blacksmith should forge a hundred pieces of iron where but twenty are needed; and as if the painter should demand forty hours for his work when five would be altogether adequate. We are in an incipient stage of development, where there is insufficient attention given to the relation between demand and supply. The work generally in any particular subject represents the strength and the personal push of the teachers, or the reverse. If by superior wit, or by greater cunning, or by sharpness of tooth or strength of claw the ambitious teacher is able to get a lion's share of the program, his particular subject may be correspondingly magnified, even to the detriment of all others.

If the school is to approximate still further the ideals of community life it is necessary that there should be a more flexible adjustment of the workers to each other and to the thing to be done. The grouping and distribution of the pupils should be based upon the nature of their work. The school grade as now generally constituted is a pure fiction in philosophy but it is a stubborn and unreasonable fact in practise. Under the domination of the grading system, the school reverses or ignores most of the principles that control people in practical affairs. Under its operation, it compels the teacher to lay the greater emphasis upon the similarities among pupils, and to ignore differences, and it places a premium upon uniformity. The more closely the school grade approaches its ideal, the more strictly must each pupil work for himself; while the closer we approximate the grouping required by the social ideal, the more earnestly must the individual strive for the whole.

The school grade aims at a certain dead level of uniformity in three things, namely, age, knowledge and skill. These rigid conditions have imposed the stamp of their own arbitrariness upon the selection of subject-matter and methods of instruction, and they render it impossible to realize the highest ideals of social and civic life in the school. The grading system was established long before child-study opened the eyes of teachers, and it represents the quantity idea in education as opposed to that of quality.

In school, not all of the teaching is done by the teacher; the younger children are constantly learning from the older. Experience shows that when pupils have the opportunity to organize themselves for work they form groups which in many instances utterly ignore the age limits set by the grade. The younger pupils gain in skill and knowledge, and the older have lessons in consideration for others and in responsibility that in a graded system must remain forever untaught.

It is equally undesirable to grade pupils on the basis of equality of knowledge. Outside of school such an aggregation of people would be considered a stupid company, with but little chance for improvement. It would distinctly improve the situation to bring together in some common enterprise pupils who differ widely in both knowledge and experience. This applies especially where the pupils are employed in doing rather than in talking. The less capable learn from those who know more, and the latter will learn to work from the strongest stimulus that can move anyone—the necessity of making knowledge immediately intelligible and available for others. The nearer the conventional grade is approximated, the less there is of such a motive; for a similarity of knowledge makes each one useless and uninteresting to every other.

The same argument applies against the requirements for a parity of skill. Every pupil has a certain skill of his own, and his work should so relate him to others that he may make the most of it. He need not be 'graded' with those having equal skill in the same direction. This point finds illustration in the building of a house. In this there may be six or eight different kinds of workmen employed. No two have quite the same skill, in no two is it required. Each one does what is needed and what he is best able to do. The group is so organized that the house-building progresses rapidly and well; but the 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 be assumed. The past generation has done practically all that need be done to place within easy reach of every intelligent teacher whatever it is necessary to know concerning special methods. Within the same period the subjects of psychology and child-study have been thoroughly worked over, and the results have been fully and clearly presented. This part of the teacher's training, hereafter, will not become of lesser importance, but it will be more and more assumed as a preliminary to the newer training which the public is now demanding. The greatest need of the schools is teachers who have the power to reach the public mind. The power to teach the children will be taken for granted.

The new type of training will not be found in a further elaboration and intensification of book study and theoretical discussion; nor will it appear in a further development of specialization as that is now commonly understood. It will be based upon actual 'field work' carried on in the community at large. That is, the teachers in training must study the needs of a community as they manifest themselves in its daily life; they must, in fact, in some way become actual participants in that life. No other kind of training will ever equip prospective teachers to answer questions which the public is now asking. The school must go into the service of the community more directly, and the community must open itself up more freely to whatever service the school can render.

Up to the present time the training schools for teachers are all modeled upon the plan and after the ideals of the older educational institutions of an academic type, and these, in their turn, grew out of the cloister. The training schools for teachers, on the contrary, should be modeled rather upon the plan of the so-called social settlement, and the ideals of the teacher must become more nearly allied to those of the settlement worker. Every school should be so organized as to draw all the people together for the purposes of work, of study, and of recreation, as the public library now attracts people who wish to read. To this end, the studios, the workrooms, the laboratories, and the libraries of the schools should be open under the supervision of the teachers, as public libraries are under the librarians, to suit the convenience of the people. They should be open at least as many hours as the saloons. A training school for teachers that could place its prospective graduates for at least a year in such intimate relations with community life as the settlements afford would give them the best possible preparation for undertaking with the people the joint task of educating the children. This does not mean, of course, that such training can be acquired only in the reeking and congested districts of the cities. Every locality in city, village, and country, should offer some opportunity for the practical training of teachers in the science and art of working with people. The teacher should take a leader's part in the debate of every question that relates to human welfare. It is only by the most active participation in public affairs that he can keep himself in proper training for the task of teaching the people's children.

The coming era of education will be marked, not by its material resources, but by its teachers. Our school houses are good enough; now let there be trained teachers, then we shall have schools. Such teachers will be equipped, of course, with knowledge; but above all they will be trained in discernment—in the power to see and appreciate the fundamental things of human growth and in its output of character. They too must work with the children, not alone for them, and be creative; to create they too must be free. The present system that grinds and chafes at every move was developed under archaic ideals; it has become antiquated and in large measure useless. The organization of the schools must grow out of the professional necessities of the teachers, the greatest of which is that even the poorest shall be free to put the best of himself into his work. Under such conditions every teacher and every child will become a positive creative moral force in the upbuilding of the social structure.

  1. Paper read before The Social Education Congress, Boston, Mass., November 30, 1906.