Normal Schools and the Training of Teachers
THE increase of normal schools in the United States, which within a recent period has been phenomenal, shows the liberality with which the American people further any project that gives hope of advancing education. The first of these schools was established in Massachusetts in 1839, and since then the normal schools in that commonwealth have been fostered by state aid. They therefore offer a fair field for the study of the educational problem presented by them, the problem of the training of teachers. The conditions and the tendencies shown in Massachusetts, it may be assumed, will be found in varying degrees in the normal schools throughout the country. With regard to buildings, grounds, equipment, and modern conveniences, they rank with the other educational institutions of the commonwealth. The teachers are as earnest and industrious as could be desired. Yet the number of pupils has been decreasing. In the nine years 1888-97 there was a loss of twenty-three per cent as against a gain of thirty-eight per cent in the previous nine years. Secretary Hill, of the State Board of Education, in his report of 1895-96, suggests three reasons for this falling off : the influence of the local training-schools for teachers ; the influence of the colleges in attracting to their courses many who would otherwise attend normal schools; and the influence of the higher standard of admission.
The last reason can hardly be considered a primary cause, for the higher standard of admission, requiring high school graduation or its equivalent, was not enforced until 1896, whereas the ebb tide in attendance set in as early as 1888. The total enrollment of pupils in normal schools, exclusive of the Nonnal Art School, shows this decreasing tendency. For example, the enrollment in the five schools from 1885 to 1890 exceeded one thousand (in one year it was 1152), whereas in the six schools of 1895-96 the enrollment was 903, and in the seven schools of 1896—97 it was only 894. The raising of the standard of admission, then, is clearly not the prime cause of this falling off.1 The steadily increased attendance up to the year 1888, and since then the steadily decreased attendance, indicate that other forces have been at work to which adjustment has not been successfully made. The cause of the falling off in attendance is not evident upon the surface. A statement of some of the conditions under which the normal schools work is necessary to make the situation clear.
There were in Massachusetts, up to 1895, five state normal schools, exclusive of the Normal Art School. In addition to these there is the Boston Normal and Training School, of the same scope, under municipal supervision. The regular course of study is two years; and though there is an extra provision for a four years’ course, it is a dead letter except in the Bridgewater school. The number of graduates from the state schools has been about two hundred and fifty annually, and the Boston Normal School graduates fifty or sixty pupils every year. The whole number of recruits annually needed as teachers by the schools of Massachusetts, according to careful estimates, is between twelve and fifteen hundred. In all probability nearly twice that number of vacancies occur, many of which are, of course, filled by the transfer of teachers already in the service. It is clear, therefore, that even if all the normal school graduates become public school teachers, the supply is inadequate to the demand.
That there is abundant room in the public school service for normal school graduates is shown by the reports of the State Board of Education. In the report of 1895-96 the total number of teachers in the common schools of the state was given as 12,275, of whom only 3908, or less than thirty-two per cent, were graduates of normal schools. Of the number of teachers in the service who were not normal school graduates, there were 1637 who had attended normal schools for a longer or shorter period without graduating. In 1885-86, with a total enrollment of 9670 teachers in the state, 2420, or about twenty-five per cent, were normal school graduates; from which it appears that there was an increase of nearly seven per cent in the number of normal school teachers within the ten years ending in 1896. Almost all of those who have had no special training — about one half the whole number — are graduates of high schools, or persons of less qualification, who have gone directly into their work without any preparatory instruction or training.
The evident uncertainty in the minds of educators as to the right method of training teachers has, no doubt, had something to do with the decadence of our normal schools. Two opposite views regarding the preparation of teachers are held. One, which may be called the college view, is that the chief element in the training of teachers is a wide knowledge of the subjects to be taught. The other view, held by many professional teachers and normal school men, is that the thing of chief importance in a teacher’s equipment is training in methods of instruction.
As is so often the case, the middle course, perhaps, is the right one. Wide knowledge of life in all its relations to the world is indispensable, but equally indispensable is the specially trained mind, responding instinctively to pedagogic interests. Such a conception, however, has not yet been worked out to practical results. The normal schools of the country have been too much hampered by elementary difficulties to carry out the conception, even had they held it. But the normal schools of Massachusetts, with the higher standards recently put in force, are now ready to go forward in working out this larger problem.
The regular course — as established by the Massachusetts State Board of Education — embraces : (1) psychology, history and principles of education, methods of instruction and discipline, school organization, school laws of Massachusetts ; (2) methods of teaching reading, language, rhetoric, composition, literature, history, arithmetic, bookkeeping, elementary algebra and geometry, elementary physics and chemistry, geography, physiology and hygiene, mineralogy, botany, natural history, drawing, vocal music, physical culture and manual training; (3) observation and practice in the training-school, and observation in other public schools.
One fact is evident from a glance at this course of study. The normal school does not offer any new material of knowledge except psychology, history of education, and methods of instruction. The second and third divisions of the work aim to teach the methods of teaching those common school branches with which the normal school pupils are supposed already to be familiar. A crucial problem, therefore, confronts the normal school at the very beginning of its work. In natural science, for example, we have a mountain of knowledge piled up by modern investigators ; in history and the social sciences there is another mass of facts, upon which modern civilization — its economics, its statecraft, its social life, and its forms of religion —is built; the common school is supposed to lay the foundation of a knowledge of these groups of facts, and the teachers of the common schools should know something about them. How then shall the normal schools, whose time is limited, fit their pupils for this important work ? Two alternatives are offered: to grapple with this mass of knowledge ; or, upon the other hand, to discover some substitute for it. As the course of study shows, the normal school has chosen the latter alternative, and has staked its fortune — perhaps perilously — upon the assumption that for the preparation of teachers a substitute for knowledge is possible and practicable. The substitute chosen is the selected facts required by the common school curricula, together with certain specific methods of teaching them according to the ordained principles which pupils are trained to believe are more or less fixed.
It is necessary to consider somewhat this principle of “ substitution.” Normal school training in the sciences offers a fair illustration ; for in these branches, my observation assures me, the normal schools appear at their best. Their laboratories, museums, and general equipment for science work are, almost without exception, admirable. The Bridgewater laboratories, the fruit of years of patient attention by the principal to the needs of his pupils, are models of completeness and convenience. The common school curriculum draws from several sciences, — physics, chemistry, geology, botany, zoölogy, mineralogy, physiology, hygiene, and biology. The time given to any one of these sciences in the normal school varies with the subject and with different schools. I found in one school a course of twenty-four lessons sufficient for a study of plant life, and in another seventy-two lessons were allowed. Probably about fifty lessons, or a course of twelve weeks, may be assumed as a liberal average time given to any of these sciences.
It must not be inferred that this average time of twelve weeks is wholly or even chiefly devoted to the acquirement of the knowledge of the science. On the contrary, substitution is pushed to its utmost limits, and the “ knowledge portion ” of the instruction is curtailed at every possible point, to give place and time to the drill upon the applications of the fixed principles of teaching. The requirements of the common school curriculum determine the range of facts that are taught, and just enough knowledge of science is instilled to furnish material for the elaboration of methods of teaching. The fact is plain that practically nothing of science, as science, can be taught in these brief courses, even were there a disposition to impart knowledge for its own sake. Substitution, therefore, ever tends necessarily to make the store of the teacher’s knowledge the exact equivalent of what she teaches.
It is a fact that will excite some astonishment, perhaps, that the stock of science knowledge and of training with which pupils from the high schools enter the normal schools is such that no account is taken of it in the normal school courses. I was emphatically assured, at the six normal schools which I visited (with the partial exception of the Boston Normal School), that the normal work in science is necessarily arranged upon the assumption of no previous knowledge. The explanation of this state of affairs is said to be that the high schools, in the work of preparing for college, throw emphasis upon the classics to the neglect of the sciences. Some pupils come to the normal school with no previous training in science ; with others — notably in those schools which draw from the rural high schools — the preparation has been mere brief “ memory work ” without laboratory experience. Some pupils have had training in but one science, and their preparation, as a rule, is so uneven and unsatisfactory that, in the opinion of normal teachers, no use can be made of it.
There is nothing in the normal school curriculum that suggests even the existence of that immense body of culture material, the social sciences, upon which modern civilization is so largely built. The theory of the satisfactory equivalence of that which a teacher knows and that which she teaches allows no place for them. Even the term “ history,” as it is generally defined in normal school phraseology, is covered by a brief review of the bare bones of fact in American history. In one school, however, I found an enthusiastic teacher rapidly reviewing mediæval history, for the purpose of laying some slight foundation for an admirable plan of history stories in the practice and model school. But her normal pupils were not doing the work of selection ; they had no mass knowledge of these stories ; they had no time to investigate, to absorb, and to select. This plan of substitution raises the question here, as it ever must, whether the really essential training for teachers is not mass study, with its wide reading and its training, which investigation, absorption, and selection require. Perhaps the end would be better accomplished by emphasizing that which is omitted.
The second and third purposes of normal school work are to furnish pupils with the technique of teaching. This end is sought in general : (1) by giving precepts of technique and specific advice, and by describing, in advance of actual teaching by pupils, the applications of the fixed principles learned in the courses of psychology; (2) by allowing members of the class to practice teaching upon their fellow members, under criticism of the teacher and of the temporary pupils ; (3) by observation in a model school or in the public schools ; (4) and by teaching in the practice schools under critic teachers.
It is evident that we are again met by substitution in another form. Much advice and many precepts which are given to pupils in advance of actual experience are true, and a part, perhaps, is remembered. In that form of substitution for experience in which a member of the class conducts the recitation, the other members serving as pupils, the pupil teacher generally plans the recitation in detail, and submits the plan in advance to the regular teacher. If approved, the work is put into operation. This sort of exercise is very general, even in schools which have practice schools. The following exercise, which I witnessed, while probably an extreme example, presents the typical tendencies of this substitution method.
The pupil, a young man, began the recitation by stating his problem somewhat as follows. “ I went to Mr. K.,” he said, “to borrow one hundred dollars, promising to pay the debt in two years. I gave a paper stating this fact. This paper is called a promissory note.” He then went to the blackboard, and, taking a piece of chalk, asked in tones of great politeness, “ Where shall I write the date ? Perhaps Miss M. would like to tell me.”
“ In the upper right - hand corner,” replied Miss M.
“ Correct! ” said the young man approvingly. “ Now, Miss R., perhaps you would kindly tell me where I must write the face.”
“ In the upper left-hand corner,” replied Miss R.
“ Correct! Now how shall I commence the body of the note ? Perhaps, Miss J., you would tell me.”
In this manner the recitation continued, with the use of practically the same formulæ, until the note was written. Then the young man took the pointer and said, “ We have now finished writing the note. The class will read it with me.”
He pointed out the words one by one, and the class proceeded to read with him. But the class read faster than he pointed. In some distress, the class teacher sprang forward, took the pointer, and showed how to “ phrase ” while the class read, so that the stick should always fall upon the words as they were pronounced. The teacher also corrected the tone and form used in directing the pupils to read: he said it was too mandatory.
“ Say it something like this ! ” he exclaimed : “ ‘ Now that we have the note written, perhaps the class might like to read it before we rub it out.’ ”
The pupil again took the pointer, and obediently repeated, “ Now that we have the note written, perhaps the class might like to read it before we rub it out.” His pointing also showed some improvement.
The second stage of the proceedings was to write a similar note, using colored chalks.
“ Miss F., would you not like to write the date for us in red chalk ? ” asked the young man, encouragingly holding out a piece of tempting red chalk.
Miss F. rose, walked across the room, and gravely wrote in flaming color the place and date ; she then, as gravely, returned to her seat. On similar invitations, other young women wrote the face, the time, and the name, in chalk of different colors, until the note was written in the hues of Joseph’s coat.
Both notes having been written and read aloud, the young man politely asked, “ Who will now kindly point out for us the date in the second note? ”
A volunteer took the pointer, and with utmost gravity pointed out the date-line.
“ Correct! ” said the young man. “Now perhaps some one would like to point out the date in the first note.”
The process was repeated, and with such accuracy that the young man was moved again to exclaim approvingly, “ Correct! ”
“ What is the face of the note ? ”
The definition being given, the face in each note was pointed out by separate pupils. In a similar manner, under this polite and encouraging direction, the play gravely continued.
This exercise was witnessed in a school whose pupils have opportunities for practice-teaching. Why it is allowed to occupy the time of such a school, and of young men and women who are not feeble-minded, is a mystery to which no intelligent answer can be given. Do these substitutes for experience fill the place of actual teaching so perfectly that the normal schools are justified in giving time to them, to the limitation of actual practice with real children and real problems ?
Last year, of the seven schools in operation in Massachusetts, exclusive of the North Adams school, one had no practice or model school, one provided a practice course of five to eight weeks, three gave about twelve weeks, and the Worcester school required, in addition to the two years’ course, six months’ apprenticeship 2 under regular teachers in the public schools and a special critic teacher. It is clearly manifest that if the normal school proposes to supply teachers fully equipped to take up the work of the public schools, the usual time given to practice and observation is insufficient. The model and practice schools ought to supply a class of work which, by reason of the criticism of experienced teachers, shall be the equivalent of actual experience. But there is good experience, and there is bad experience. If the model and critic teachers are themselves the products of training upon the principle of substitution of something else for knowledge and experience, and are merely handing down what was similarly handed down to them, then the value of such training is doubtful. This form of training directly suppresses essential elements of experience, — independent decision, and training in personal judgment. Without these essentials, model and practice school training can in no sense be considered equivalent substitutes for experience.
It is evident that the elaborate system of methods derived from mediæval times, based upon the assumption that substitutes for knowledge and experience are possible, has absorbed too much of the energy, the interest, and the time of the normal schools, and they have already ceased to train and to supply teachers in the proportion in which it was meant that they should train and supply them. The demand for teachers has not decreased, but has rapidly increased ; yet the state normal schools have been supplanted by colleges, especially by colleges for women, and by training-schools, which together now have in Massachusetts alone considerably over one thousand pupils in training for the work of teaching.
Behind the fact that a large proportion of the class of pupils who formerly went to the normal schools is now diverted is a matter of the gravest significance to educational interests. “ The normal school pupil of the present, in point of native endowment and that personal culture dependent upon home influences, is distinctly the inferior of the normal school pupil of twenty or twenty-five years ago,” said a gentleman whose position qualified him to make this statement. I have been assured of the truth of this assertion by so many different persons that there is no reason to doubt it. The time once was, before the high school had been brought to the door of every hamlet, offering a paved pathway to the college, when the ambitious youth of the land went to normal schools. The normal school was to them a sort of convenient compromise for the college. At that period, also, there were no colleges for women, and the normal school was woman’s one educational opportunity. But within a few years these conditions have all been changed. Men no longer go to normal schools, and in Massachusetts alone the doors to Radcliffe, Smith, Wellesley, and Mount Holyoke — all exclusively for women — stand open, offering collegiate advantages. Their combined accommodations are now providing college education for more than two thousand women. A normal school principal with whom I was discussing the situation said frankly : “The better class of minds, those from the homes of culture, are going to the colleges. We normal school people are taking second pickings.” Another normal school teacher ruefully admitted the situation somewhat as follows : “ Education is too easy in these modern days. When I was a boy, it required some exceptional effort to go beyond the district school. Only those of exceptional purpose and ambition went beyond. The others dropped off into domestic service, into shops, or into other places where they would be directed what to do and how to do it. But now children go to school as the easiest thing to do. The better class, when they complete the high school course, as a rule go to college; of the others, some find work as clerks, as shop-girls, and the like. But these positions are already overcrowded. Two years more in a normal school make a teacher and the assurance of a livelihood. Some come to us,—teaching does not soil the hands, and is more ladylike.”
We touch here a condition of the most dangerous significance. The ideal function of the normal school must be to attract to the field of education the better class of minds ; for the problems of education, in importance and difficulty, are among the most subtile of all problems. When the normal school fails in this service, and sinks to the level of putting young women of the lower mental capacity into places where they can easily earn a living at the public expense, and thereby burdening the cause of education with an inert mass of dependents, then the institution becomes a positive evil. The sole purpose of the public schools is to educate. To confuse the educational functions of the normal school with those of eleemosynary institutions marks a point where a friend steps out, and an enemy steps in.
Facts in the history, environment, and internal structure of the normal schools explain their weakness. Fifty years ago Horace Mann was leading the campaign against the narrow theory of education then in practice, — the theory that a collection of school facts was the teacher’s essential stock in trade, the textbook the authority ex cathedra, the memory the only means of learning, and the rod the only motive for it. The campaign he waged was for professional training as a means of modifying the existing crudities of practice. The campaign was won, and normal schools were established. Yet, while education has gone forward upon new waters in these fifty years, the normal school, strangely enough, is still upon the same old raft, paddled by substitutes for knowledge and experience, “ contentedly round and round, still fancying it is forward and forward.” Fifty years ago normal school graduates were competing with untrained teachers. The competition still goes on, and untrained teachers are still able to hold their own in the contest. Why ?
Flaws in the internal structure of normal schools make this condition possible. There has been a breeding-in process in Massachusetts, and nowhere are the results more manifest than in the normal schools. During the year 1896 there were, approximately, one hundred and twenty-four teachers and principals in the state normal schools. Of these, fifteen, or twelve per cent, were college graduates ; of the seven principals, four were college men, and one other held an honorary degree. From the records of the academic training and experience of one hundred and three of these one hundred and twenty-four teachers, on file in the office of the State Board of Education, it appears that ten others attended some college for periods ranging from a few months to two years; sixty were graduates of normal schools, almost exclusively of this state ; fifty-four, or more than fifty per cent, had had no traininghigher than that offered by the normal school; eleven had had less than normal school preparation, and eleven had received their training in special schools of gymnastics, music, and the like. In the case of twenty-four of these teachers there is no record of high school graduation prior to their entrance to the normal schools. In the matter of experience, eleven had had no experience in teaching prior to their normal school appointment; thirty-nine had taught in ungraded or graded schools only ; eighteen had taught in high schools, eleven in other normal schools, seven in training-schools, one in college, a few in various private or special schools ; and four had been school superintendents. The striking fact that, of the eighty-five teachers in the five older schools, forty-three were graduates of the same schools in which they taught bears its significant import and suggestion. In one school, eleven teachers out of eighteen were graduates of this school, and the seven others included the four special teachers of music, gymnastics, sloyd, and drawing. In another school, nine out of fifteen were graduates of the school, with little or no evidence of any training outside its walls. These are unpleasant facts to refer to, but they are essential to a frank statement of the conditions upon which the normal school idea depends for sustenance, and are necessary for the comprehension of the problem.
With the pursuit of knowledge, with the broader view of education which the knowledge of modern social and natural sciences gives, with the scope of education, its broader purposes and ideals, the mass of these teachers have had no personal contact other than that which the normal school has provided them. They are good people, earnest people, and many are enthusiastic teachers, eager for progress and for opportunities to broaden themselves. But we must consider principles, and not individuals. The water of a brook, as a rule, is of the same character as the water of the spring from which it flows. This breeding-in insures in education what it insures in stock-raising, — perpetuation of original peculiarities, good and bad alike, — and hinders the infusion of other qualities. The temporary expedients, representing the conditions of the times of Horace Mann, naturally tend, by this process, to be perpetuated. In the report of the board of visitors of one of the normal schools, a few years ago, the statement is made with pride that there had not been a single change in the staff of teachers for ten years! In the six older normal schools in the state up to 1896, one of the principals had served more than thirty-five years, one more than thirty, and three had been at their posts between twenty and twenty-five years. Two were graduates of the schools over which they presided, and were teachers in these schools many years before they became principals. Taken separately, many of these facts are matters for congratulation ; but in the mass they offer one significant explanation for the vigorous survival in modern times of the temporary expedients, purposes, and methods of early pioneer work.
The normal schools of Massachusetts are under the immediate management of the State Board of Education, and the system of supervision is to-day practically what it has always been since the schools were established. Theoretically the Board acts as a whole, but in reality each school is directed by two or three members of the Board, called “ visitors,” and it is not considered good form for the visitors of one school to interfere with the affairs of another. The recommendations of the visitors for the respective schools in the appointment of principals and teachers are followed practically without exception. But the old district system, now driven from nearly all the towns in the state, seems nevertheless to have settled in the State Board. Once a year the visitors of each school report to the Board. These reports, which are printed, demonstrate prima facie the puerility of such a system of supervision in the present age. They show some ingenuity in paying graceful and meaningless compliments and in writing obituary notices, but outside this literary function it is difficult to imagine their utility. Secretary Hill, in his last report, suggests, with due modesty, the employment of an expert board of supervisors.
I met at one of the normal schools one of these visitors paying an official visit. He was a kind old gentleman, whose vocation, while not that of teaching, was one of eminent respectability. I asked him how he, not being a school man, was able to select competent teachers. His reply was charming in its naïveté. He said that when he was a student at college he had taught school during some of his vacations. He had, therefore, personal experience. “ And besides,” he added, with a gentle touch of conceit, “I know pretty well a good teacher as soon as I set my eyes upon one.” While there are elements of strength in the State Board, nevertheless the fingermarks of patronage methods show on the wall. It has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of every one concerned in education, time and time again, that educational interests cannot live in an atmosphere tainted by the patronage system of professional politicians. The internal conditions of the normal schools which have been described find abundant explanation in this outworn, diseased, and hopelessly inadequate system of management.
But the trouble is not wholly internal. I was the third party in a conversation between a normal school principal and a visiting school executive from another state. The latter was giving the principal some unsolicited advice upon how to conduct his normal school. When the adviser had finished, the principal replied in substance: —
“ I agree to a great deal of what you say, but if I should follow your advice this normal school would soon be without pupils. If I should carry out your views, a particular superintendent, who usually takes eight or ten of our graduates, would look through our school and tell me that he was obliged to do his shopping at another store. He wants a teacher who can do things just so-andso. It would be the same with other superintendents, and pupils would soon find out that this was a poor place from which to seek positions.”
I sat one afternoon in a normal school listening to a lesson in devices. Each pupil in the class had a little box, and whenever, in the course of visiting schools, she saw a pretty method, or her own inventive genius suggested one, she made a note of it and dropped it into her box. Once a week these boxes were opened in the presence of the critic teacher, and the contents displayed. I was present on one of these occasions. One of the pupils drew out of her box some cardboard elephants, horses, bears, and the like. She explained that the child would draw around these, and make a much more accurate drawing than he could by freehand. Another drew a circle with several diagonals on the blackboard ; at the centre she wrote “ at,” and at the extremities of the diagonals she wrote the letters m, c, r, s. By the use of one of the consonants and the “ at ” in the centre, words could be constructed by the pupil, thus: m-at, c-at, r-at, s-at. It would help to teach spelling, she said. Another had a device for teaching addition of numbers. She drew two small oblongs on the blackboard, wrote “ and ” between them, and after the second oblong she made the sign of equality and another oblong. In the first oblong she put “ 3,” in the second “ 7,” and explained that the pupil could be required to put the sum in the last oblong. In this manner the class proceeded ; and when the recitation was done I inquired of the teacher her views as to the utility of the work. She gave me a patient look, and wearily replied : —
“ Do you suppose that I approve of this class of work ? I do not. I thought I had done with all such work when I came to this school; for the principal, you know, does not believe in the extremity to which the study of methods goes. But now it seems that we are drilling more than ever upon devices, — so many of our pupils go into schools where devices are required more than anything else.”
At the meeting of the New England school superintendents held in Boston last May, the following topics were discussed : what constitutes a visit, inspecting, teaching, criticism of teachers, and supervision through teachers. One superintendent said that visiting included inspection not only of the instruction, but of everything pertaining to the school work, — even the janitors. Another ventured the trite declaration that at the first glance into a teacher’s room she could discover the general character of instruction given. This assertion was disputed, and the disputant declared it to be the superintendent’s duty to go into the room and sit awhile. A discussion arose here as to where the visitor should sit, — whether in front of the class, or off in a corner where the teacher could be watched at a distance. The problem of how to correct a teacher caught in the act of using an incorrect method consumed a good deal of time. One speaker insisted that the correction and criticism should take place on the spot, while the iron was hot, or the offense might be forgotten. An opponent favored postponing the correction until after school, and another thought it better to direct the teacher to come to the office. A good old gentleman explained at considerable length that when he wanted to see how pupils were getting on he sent for the class to come to his office without their teacher. Other details of superintendent’s duties upon a similar level of importance were broached, and aroused active discussion. As the clock was striking twelve, Superintendent Dutton, of Brookline, arose, and turning upon his brother superintendents said : " Gentlemen, really, what have we been talking about this entire session? Have we not simply been threshing out the old straw of twenty-five years ago ? Do let us try to get out of this fearful rut. Many schools to-day are where our fathers left them. Our practice is too far behind our theory. We know that hundreds of children in every city have physical defects and need special treatment. We have plenty of data at hand to prove this, and yet not a word has been spoken this morning to indicate that we are conscious of the trouble. Why should we spend an entire morning discussing matters which our fathers settled long ago, while so many vital questions, yet untouched, are pressing for solution? We have had our annual, warmed-over discussions on inspecting and testing. Inspecting and testing what ? The intellectual, of course, for no word has been uttered touching the importance of the physical.”
When Superintendent Dutton sat down there was no applause, and an adjournment was taken in silence.
The effect of the normal school doctrine of substitution has been to disseminate the fallacy, as repugnant to common sense as to the scientific view of pedagogy, that the normal school is necessarily a blind alley among educational institutions, and that the student of the rearing of children cuts himself loose from all the common concerns of men. Yet some one has asked the question, as pertinent as it is unkind, why it is that the “ trained ” kindergartner and the “ trained ” normal graduate never use their acquired methods in the rearing of their own children. The doctrine that special tricks or devices can take the place of the parental instinct and a liberal education is not a doctrine of pedagogy: it is a disease of the normal school, a green scum which gathers upon the surface of an educational pool which has become stagnant. Many of the universities and colleges are finding a place in their regular curricula for the material of pedagogy, as valuable for those who teach as for those who do not. But when I asked the presidents of two New England colleges, exclusively for women, from twenty-five to fifty per cent of whose students intended to teach, why no pedagogical courses were offered, each replied, with just a touch of loftiness, that it is not the function of the college to prepare for the special vocations ! When and by what act has it been established that the rearing of children is a special vocation ? What duty is further from specialization, if the tenet of biological philosophy be true, that the chief end of man is to conserve the interests of posterity? But this incident indicates how widespread and deep has grown the confusion of pedagogy with mere device and parasitic method. However, the New England colleges are private institutions, and when they declare that it is not their wish to give courses in pedagogy the subject is closed in this quarter. It becomes the duty of the state to take charge of the matter.
What is needed, then, at the present juncture, is the appointment of a state commission, with legislative power to inquire into this problem, and to establish the normal schools and the machinery for the preparation of teachers upon some plan fitted to present conditions and to the educational conceptions of the time. The codes of present procedure, purpose, method, and scope of normal school work were established by Horace Mann to meet temporary conditions fifty or sixty years ago, and they have never been changed.
Massachusetts, of all the states, is at present in the best position to seize upon a grand educational opportunity and set an example in the field of preparing teachers. From the educators of Massachusetts there could be chosen a commission that would be worthy of the task. The commonwealth already has a magnificent “ plant" that has cost nearly $2,000,000, and it spends between $150,000 and $200,000 annually in its support. Massachusetts has never shirked its educational duties. The liberality of the state, the intelligence of the people, their ever ready and prompt recognition of educational progress, the demand for professional teachers, the supply of students from high school levels, — all these are factors which could not be so happily combined in any other community. The time is ripe for taking a definite step in lifting the normal school into its logical position of leadership in pedagogical affairs. The teachers of the normal schools must be of that timbre and scholarship which lead the teaching body, and the pedagogy which comes from these schools must be such as to lead educational thought. The problem of the preparation of teachers must be clearly recognized as pivotal, and the most important of the time. All other educational problems hinge upon it, and their solution waits upon its solution.
- This view is sustained by the fact that the enrollment of new pupils at the beginning of the present academic year (1897-98) shows a significant increase. Secretary Hill accounts for this increase on the ground that the raising of the standard has inspired the public generally with a degree of respect for normal schools that was wanting when the standard of admission was low ; for high school principals, when the normal school admission was lower than that of their own schools, were naturally not inclined to recommend normal courses to their graduates. The opinion of Secretary Hill will be found to be in harmony with the general conclusions of this article. The next step, after raising the standard, is to improve the quality of the work within the normal schools, to conform to the higher standard of admission, so that the renewed confidence of the public may not be disappointed.↩
- The term of apprenticeship in this school has recently been extended to a year.↩