High School Extension

IF we may believe President Eliot, one of the five great contributions to civilization made by the United States is the diffusion of well-being among the people. Not the least important of many agencies working to this end is the public school system, and I wish to consider briefly the responsibility which rests upon the high school in this movement, and the methods whereby it may most effectually promote systematic self-culture among the masses, making it one of the enduring interests of life.

At a leading New England college, some years ago, when the Commencement exercises were over and the diplomas had been distributed, a member of the graduating class, who had been distinguished more by conviviality than by studiousness, and who had barely escaped losing his degree, appeared upon the campus, and, waving the much-prized parchment over his head, shouted gleefully, “Educated, by Jove ! Educated ! ” The idea expressed by the rollicking student, more in jest than in earnest, illustrates a notion of education which dies hard. The popular prejudice that culture is something extracted from books, picked up in a lecture-hall or a laboratory, or seized during the fleeting years of one’s school or college life, is so prevalent that it becomes the obvious duty of the school to press home to the consciousness of every person the conviction that an obligation rests upon him to undertake a course of education lasting throughout his life.

Secondary school teachers are not likely to forget the needs of popular education for the masses. Most of us have regretted to see our pupils, some from necessity, others from a lack of ambition, leave school before the completion of the course. Not infrequently, a few years of business life wholly change the attitude of the indifferent boy ; and even to those upon whom the burden of life falls early there come times when, with proper guidance, they would make substantial progress in self - culture. We have also been repeatedly humiliated to see how little the school has done to establish habits of systematic reading. To a great many the newspaper represents the only literary resource. Scrappy, desultory reading is the rule with all classes, not excepting those who have had good educational advantages.

There is abundant proof that in many high schools the extension movement has made considerable progress. Under ideal conditions, the high school numbers among its pupils representatives of every grade of society. Through these it has a more or less intimate connection with homes of every sort. Where this connection is a sympathetic one, there are not lacking opportunities for the teacher to impress himself upon others than those under his immediate instruction; and it would be easy to cite instances of the uplifting influence of the school upon the home. Through his pupils many an inspired teacher has imparted to the family group something of his own ideals and enthusiasm. In so far as the reading and thought of adults in these homes are influenced by the stimulating and suggestive work of such a teacher, to that extent is school extension an accomplished fact. We all know devoted teachers who are conducting, unobtrusively but perseveringly, extension movements of this character. By suggestion they determine very largely the class of books which are carried from the school or public library into the homes of their children.

The young of to-day are confronted and environed by a new set of interests. The social club, the Christian Endeavor Society, the athletic association, claim a large measure of the pupil’s attention. From the standpoint of the schoolmaster, these are at first sight costly ventures, interfering with the amount of history that can be absorbed and the amount of Cæsar and algebra that can be mastered in a given time. We sometimes fume at such distractions, and sigh, perchance, for the good old times when there was but one educational thoroughfare, albeit a narrow one, and the schoolmaster alone was the guide thereto.

It is a juster view which recognizes in the many collateral interests of the modern schoolboy rare opportunities for social and civic training. Surely, the courage, the sense of fair play, the team work or coöperative effort which results from a participation in these, and the executive ability which comes from directing them, are not lightly to be esteemed. “The regular course of studies, the years of academical and professional education,” says Emerson, have not yielded me better facts than some idle books under the bench of the Latin School. What we do not call education is more precious than that which we call so. We form no guess, at the time of receiving a thought, of its comparative value. And education often wastes its effort in attempts to thwart and balk this natural magnetism, which is sure to select what belongs to it.”

A mediæval school in a world of libraries, museums, and art collections, in a world of books and periodicals, and, above all, in a world of independent thought and conscious efforts at social and political reforms, is an anachronism. It cannot enter into competition with other better educational forces. There must be a sympathetic connection between the school and the best life in the community around it. With enlarged conceptions of the province of education comes a host of auxiliaries never dreamed of when narrower views prevailed. When the strength of the schoolmaster was expended in attempting to establish certain school arts, with little regard to the content of the subjects presented, his work was beneath the notice of all other intellectual toilers.

It should, therefore, be put to the credit of the new education — using the term somewhat loosely, it may be, to characterize that educational régime which is based upon sympathy with the educated, and which believes in a nutritious and vitalizing course of study — that by the very enrichment of its school courses it has touched adult life at so many more points. Education comes to be more generally recognized as a lifelong process, in which all, old and young, are together participating. Who can doubt that the reconstructed curriculum of our public schools, placing so much emphasis upon literature, art, music, and cooking, will produce immediate results in many homes, — that there will be choicer books on the centre-table, less crowded, more simply furnished rooms, and better and more wholesome food ?

In physics and natural history there are opportunities to direct and control the out-of-school activities of young people, of which the enthusiastic teacher of science is not slow to avail himself. One of the most astonishing facts of the time is the ingenuity of boys in constructing electrical apparatus, with but a few hints and out of the most meagre materials. I know boys who have belt-lines of electric tramways circulating in their garrets ; and a boy who, last year, was the despair of his teachers won deserved recognition in the manual training exhibit as the clever inventor of a novel electrical boat. An invitation to boys to bring to school products of their own ingenuity, or the natural history specimens that they have collected, will result in an exhibition which in variety and quality will be a revelation to one who is not used to following them in these interests.

So general and so wholesome a tendency is too significant to be ignored, and yet one almost hesitates to meddle with it, lest official recognition may rob it of its independence and spontaneity. With sympathy from the school, however, it may be directed and made more intelligent. The interest in nature, for instance, may help to fill profitably the long summer vacations. A pamphlet issued to the children in the Brookline (Massachusetts) schools at the close of the school year tells them what to observe and how to collect natural objects. It contains suggestions as to the study of trees, leaves, ferns, flowers, lichens and fungi, the dissemination of seeds, insects, birds, shells, rocks and minerals. In the fall there is an exhibition of the collections made by the pupils during the summer, and in all this out-of-door work, which promotes good-comradeship between old and young, the parents are asked to coöperate. If the schools of the country, instead of spending their force during the last of June in trying to discover how much their pupils have learned, were content, as a substitute for their examinations, to anticipate the summer’s experiences and to prepare their pupils to profit by them, there would be far less physical and mental weariness, far more intellectual growth and vigor.

Wisely conceived courses in domestic science and home sanitation exert a powerful influence in a direction where there is the greatest need for reform. Municipal housekeeping is but one step removed from the care of the home. The public high school is the best of all places for training in citizenship. It is better than the home, the church, the special fitting-school, or the university, for it is a more perfect democracy than any of these. It shares with all public schools the advantage of being non - sectarian. It is in no sense a class school. There need be no arbitrary or artificial standards. For a boy to grow from youth to manhood in a school created and supported by the state, never breaking with the community life into which he was born, meeting representatives of every social class, learning to know them, measuring himself by them, and coming to realize that merit alone will win recognition among them, is to get a training in manly self-reliance, in sympathy for others less fortunate, it may be, than himself, and in respect for the rights of all, that no private school can give.

The high school is frequently more thoroughly representative of all classes than the district grammar school. Under favorable conditions, it is a community school in very close touch with the homes of its pupils and with the social and political world about it. Its pupils are at an age when they are peculiarly susceptible to impressions from this political and social environment. The precocity of the American boy with reference to current politics is quite without a parallel.

Educational experts are telling us much nowadays about nascent periods, times of the birth of faculty, which must be taken advantage of if we are to teach with the greatest economy. Now, I am convinced that the nascent period for the acquisition of social and political knowledge for most of our boys and girls is during their secondary school life. It is then that their institutional and governmental instincts are in the bud. They are capable of a large measure of self-government. Many of the necessary restraints, instead of being arbitrarily imposed by one in authority, may be Self - assumed. Most, if not all misdemeanors may be so corrected as to teach an important lesson, which will not be forgotten when the pupil becomes an active member in the larger society outside the school. The boy who thoughtlessly scatters papers about the school yard may be led to see that it is just such carelessness with reference to refuse which endangers the health of our crowded cities. In guarding against the abuse of school property something may be done, I am sure, to correct the pernicious notion, at the root of much extravagant expenditure, that what everybody pays for nobody pays for.

The idea of stewardship, of holding property in trust, can be and must be established ; and if the adornment of our modern school buildings counts for anything, we may expect standards of taste to be established which will save us from many of the atrocious examples of architecture and statuary which have been foisted upon an ignorant public. The most important lesson for some of us pedagogues to learn is that our chief function is, not to keep our boys from whispering, or even to teach them mathematics and Greek, but so to connect the school with the world that their school experiences may in very truth be a preparation for good citizenship after school.

But the subject of this paper suggests a specific and organized effort to extend the influence and advantages of the high school by enlisting, at certain seasons of the year, adults — parents, relatives, and friends of the pupils — in common courses of study. High school extension is the child of university extension. It has inherited the same spirit, the same aims, and much the same methods. Like the university, the high school has been for the few, and, like the university, it now aims to reach the many.

Any extension movement should be the outgrowth of the actual needs of a community. This is a lesson which the promoters of university extension have learned from experience, and from the first they have aimed to work through local organizations. No other local organization in America is so well suited to this purpose as the high school. Many of its teachers are college-bred men and women ; they are in touch with the community ; they understand its needs as no stranger can. The high school has resources which the traveling lecturer cannot well supply. A well-equipped high school building, with laboratories, art and natural history collections, reference library, and lecture-hall, is the natural centre for such educational work ; and the community has a right to expect the largest possible return from the expensive educational outlay when it rears a modern high school building.

There is reason to suppose that a number of instances of high school extension could be brought to light, if data were collected.

Many high schools have long had postgraduate students, and the growth of the elective system in secondary schools will undoubtedly increase this class of pupils.

At Newton, Massachusetts, the English teacher has for years had large private classes of adults in the homes of his pupils.

At Danielsonville, Connecticut, the principal of the high school has given an evening course in geology to the teachers and some others for several consecutive winters.

At Stamford, Connecticut, a few years ago, the high school principal delivered a short course of Saturday morning lectures to a general audience of adults, upon political economy.

At Westfield, Massachusetts, “ an attempt to utilize the potential usefulness of high school teachers,” by offering courses to the public in literature, history, German, Greek, economics, and art, was begun with the present school year.

At Drexel Institute, Philadelphia, organ recitals for the students and the public have long been considered a valuable means of culture.

At Brookline, Massachusetts, we have had what have been called high school extension courses for the past five winters. Six years ago, we were prompted to project a three months’ course in literature for the seniors, and to invite to the class the parents of the pupils and other persons who might be interested; and at its close to procure a university professor to give a course of lectures upon the period studied by the class. It was thought that these lectures could be made selfsupporting. The plan was explained to certain members of the school committee. They were sympathetic, but not enthusiastic, although they were willing to coöperate. The development of other lines of school work interfered, however, so that nothing was done. I still believe that such a plan could be made a success. Late in the fall of 1892, one of the .English teachers outlined a five years’ extension course in literature. Division I., to be devoted to poetry, was subdivided into the Epic, the Lyric, and the Drama ; Division II., devoted to prose, into the Essay and the Novel.

A syllabus covering the first year’s work upon the Epic in English Literature was printed and sent to every recent graduate of the school. Bi-weekly evening meetings were arranged. The course was advertised in the local paper, and all except pupils in the schools were invited. Fifty persons presented themselves the first night, and the class soon numbered nearly one hundred ; the average attendance was considerably less than this, Between the meetings, the class was supposed to read forty minutes a day, — eight hours in all, — and the class exercise consisted mainly of a “ quiz,” running comments upon the works read, and the presentation for illustrative purposes of numerous selections from the leading epics. The class was enthusiastic. Not a few did all the required reading, and more besides.

The second year’s course, on the lyric, did not call out as large a number, only fifty names being registered. Such of the school textbooks as pertained to the subject under consideration were freely lent. Some new books, a few in duplicate, were added to the school’s reference library. The public library placed all its resources at the disposal of the class, bringing the desired volumes together in an alcove by themselves. It was something of a disappointment to the teacher that she did not reach more of the poorer homes, though representatives of these were not lacking. Many of the members were public school teachers, and middle-aged women whose children were or had been in the school. In some instances children and parents undertook the work together. Boys and men were in the minority.

Encouraged by the first year’s experiment, we announced three extension courses for the second season : in electricity, in French literature, and in art. These also were given by teachers in the school.

The first course, which was illustrated by experiments and stereopticon views, proved very popular, one hundred being the average attendance. Men and boys were far more numerous than in the course on the lyric. It was to one of these lectures that an English laboring man walked over from Faneuil with his three boys ; explaining to me, after the lecture, that he wanted them to learn something about a subject which he, “ as a young man at ’ome,” had heard Michael Faraday lecture upon.

The other two courses, Romanticism in French Literature and The Barbizon Group of French Painters, which were closely related, were thoroughly appreciated, although the audiences were not so large (not exceeding thirty or forty). The art lectures were illustrated by numerous photographs and reproductions of paintings by Rousseau, Gérôme, Millet, and others, loaned for the occasion by a Boston firm. These were examined and discussed by the class after the lecture.

It has been found pleasant and profitable to have, at stated intervals, public Shakespearean readings, at which plays studied in the literature classes are presented in their entirety. This has been done by a local clergyman, a man of dramatic power and a student of Shakespeare, who has been willing to meet in this way a more representative audience than would perhaps gather to hear such readings in his own church parlors.

The school debating club has given annually, after careful preparation, mock sessions of the town meeting, of the state Senate, or of other deliberative assemblies. Modest attempts have been made, too, at dramatic representation of picturesque episodes of literature and history. Such appeals to the dramatic instincts of the school children might well be made with much more frequency.

Courses of lectures have also been given in astronomy, local history, Spanish literature, and X-ray photography. A morning course, for which a charge was made, and which proved very popular with women of leisure, was devoted to the history of Greek and Roman art. The lecturer met her class in the school art room, used freely the casts and photographs of the school collection, and occasionally conducted her class to the art museums in Boston and Cambridge. Two series of lectures have been given to the seniors, the first of which dealt with The Place of the Family in Society, The Relation of its Members, and The Care and Administration of the Home ; the second, with such topics as Choice of Vocation, The First Year of College Life, Systematic Self-Culture after School.

Up to this point the instruction was given without extra expense, except the cost of printing syllabi and bibliographies. The lecturers, who were teachers of the school, citizens, or college professors, had received no compensation for their services. A new phase of the experiment was reached when private individuals furnished money for this supplementary teaching. The music committee of the Education Society has provided two series of young people’s concerts, which have been highly appreciated by the parents as well as the children. And finally, a public - spirited citizen, seeing the possibilities in this extension movement, has given the school, for the past two winters, courses of university lectures : one by Professor Davis R. Dewey, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on Political Economy; the other on the Relation of Man to the Earth, by Professor William M. Davis, of Harvard University. In both instances the subjects have been chosen with reference to existing courses in the school, and the lectures have been accompanied by syllabus and bibliography.

The results in Brookline have fully equaled our expectations. The sustained interest justifies this effort to extend the influence of the high school. Still further justification is found in the community of interest it promotes in the home. Not infrequently, several members of the same family, parents as well as children, are reading the same books and pursuing the same course of study. This is one of the best things that can be said of it. Again, it is to be commended for its excellent reflex action upon the school itself. A teacher cannot meet the wants of an adult class by preparing lessons or lectures for an extension course without gaining greatly in the grasp and comprehension of his subject. It gives him a new point of view, as well as a new incentive to master, in some of its larger aspects, a subject which for him is in danger of being dwarfed by the limitations of the schoolroom. Incidentally, such work enlarges the constituency of the school, and, best of all, gives opportunity for the better acquaintance of teachers and parents.

In a community within thirty minutes of the Lowell Institute and all in the way of lectures and music that Boston has to offer, these extension courses have proved their usefulness. In a country village, where there were not too many distractions, and where there were fewer intellectual resources, much more might be expected of high school extension.

D. S. Sanford.