I FEEL myself, on the whole, pretty free from autobiographical tendencies ; I am quite ready to double the number of my years, at least, before I begin upon memories and confessions. At one point only has the desire for an autobiographical eruption grown in me steadily : I am impelled to tell the story of my school time.
I remember exactly how the impulse took shape in my mind. It was at a teachers’ meeting. The teachers were discussing how to relieve the overburdening of the school children, and how to make tolerable the drudgery of the classroom. Some demonstrated that all the trouble came from the old-fashioned idea of prescribed courses : if the courses were freely chosen, according to the talents and interests of the pupils, their sufferings would be ended. Others maintained that the teachers were guilty : that they did not know enough about educational aims, about child study and psychology and the theory of education. What else than drudgery was to be expected, under such inadequate pedagogues ? The fight between the two parties went on with an inspiring fullness of argument, and thus I fell into a deep and sound sleep. And the sleep carried me away from the elms of New England to my dear old home on the shore of the Baltic Sea, where I spent my school days. I saw once more my classmates and my teachers; I strolled once more, as a little boy with my schoolbooks, through the quaint streets of Danzig; I passed again through the feelings of more than twenty years ago. Suddenly I awoke at the stroke of the gavel of the chairman, who solemnly announced that the majority had voted for a compromise : the community ought to see to it that both free election and the pedagogical information of the teachers were furthered. At this point the meeting was adjourned, and the teachers went to the next hall for luncheon : there some minor speeches were served up, on the pernicious influence of the classical languages, and on the value of stenography and typewriting for a liberal education. It was then that the autobiography budded in my mind. My instinct told me that I must make haste in the undertaking ; for if I should hear, for some years to come, all these sighs of pity for those who were instructed without election and pedagogy, I might finally get confused, and extend the same pity to my own childhood, convinced that my school life was a deplorable misfortune. I hasten, therefore, to publish this chapter of my life’s story as advance sheets, some decades before the remainder, at a period when the gap of time is still small enough to be bridged by a fair memory.
My great-grandfather lived in Silesia. But perhaps it may be too long a story if I develop my case from its historical beginning; I will shorten it by saying at once that I entered the gymnasium in Danzig at nine years of age, and left it at eighteen. I had previously attended a private preparatory school, and subsequently I went to the universities of Leipzig and Heidelberg. It is the gymnasium period about which I want to speak. I have no right to boast of it; I was a model neither of industry nor of carefulness. I was not quite so bad as some of my best friends among my classmates, but I see, with serious repentance, from the reports which I have carefully kept together, that I was not attentive enough in Latin grammar ; it seems that in the lower classes, also, my French did not find the full appreciation of my teachers, and I should feel utterly ashamed to report what their misled judgment recorded of my singing and drawing. I was just a fair average. The stages of knowledge which we reached may most easily be characterized by a comparison with the standards of New England. At fifteen years I was in Untersekunda ; and there is not the slightest doubt that, at that stage, all my classmates and I were prepared to pass the entrance examinations for Harvard College. As a matter of course, German must here be substituted for English, German history and literature for the English correspondents. We should have chosen, at our entrance, that scheme in which both Latin and Greek are taken. The Abiturientenexamen at the end of the school time, the examination which opens the door to the university, came three years later. It was a difficult affair, somewhat more difficult than in recent yearsand ; from a pretty careful analysis of the case, I can say that very few Harvard students have entered the senior class who would have been able to pass that examination respectably. In the smaller colleges of the country, the senior might be expected to reach that level at graduation. No doubt, even after substituting German for English, almost every senior may have taken one or many courses which lie fully outside of the circle in which we moved. The college man who specializes in political economy or philosophy or chemistry from his freshman year knows, in his special field, far more than any one of us knew ; but if we take a composite picture of all seniors, the boy who leaves the gymnasium is not at a disadvantage in the comparison of intellectual physiognomy, while he is far less mature according to his much lower age. If any man in Dartmouth or Amherst takes his bachelor’s degree with that knowledge in mathematics, history, geography, literature, Latin, Greek, French, and physics which we had on leaving school, he is sure to graduate with honors. Our entrance into the university can thus be compared merely with the entrance into the post-graduate courses. Our three highest gymnasium classes alone correspond to the college ; and whoever compares the German university with the American college, instead of with the graduate school, is misled either by the age of the students or by the external forms of student life and instruction.
I reached thus, at the end of my school time, as a pupil of average standing, the scholarly level of an average college graduate in this country. I was then eighteen years of age ; the average bachelor of arts is at least three years older. How did that difference come about ? The natural explanation of the case is that we poor boys were overburdened, systematically tortured by a cruel system of overwork, which absorbed all our energies for the one goal, the passing of the examination. I do not dare to contradict. But the one thing I may claim in favor of this scheme of overloading is the wonderful skill with which the school administration was able to hide these evident facts so completely from our eyes that neither my classmates nor I, nor our parents, nor our teachers themselves, ever perceived the slightest trace of them. The facts were so shamelessly concealed from us that we poor deceived boys thought all the time that the work was a pleasure, that we had leisure for everything, and that every one of us was as happy as a fish in water.
I think that I spent, during all those ten years, about three hours a day in the fresh air, walking and playing, swimming and skating ; yet I found time from my ninth year to practice on the violoncello one hour every day, and the novels which I wrote may have lacked everything else, but they never lacked length. Besides such individual schemes to fill our vacant time, we coöperated for that purpose in clubs, from the lowest classes to the highest: at ten years we played instructive games ; at twelve years we read classical dramas, each taking one rôle ; at fifteen we read papers on art and literature ; and at seventeen we had a regular debating club. And all the time, at every stage, there were private theatricals, and excursions into the country, and dancing lessons, and horseback-riding, and coeducation with the education left out; for the poor overburdened girls helped us to bear the load by suffering in common.
Every one of us had, of course, the minor special interests and amusements which suited his own taste ; there was no lack of opportunity to follow up these inclinations ; to use the terminology of modern pedagogy, we “ found ” ourselves. I found myself, too ; but — and in this respect I did not behave exactly according to the prescribed scheme of this same pedagogy, I am sorry to say — I found myself every two or three years, as some one very different from the former individual whom I had had the pleasure to discover. In the first years of my school time botany was all my desire. We lived in the summer in a country house with a large garden, and a forest near the garden; and every minute I could spare belonged to the plants which I collected and pressed. It became a boyish passion. If I had to write a novel, this feature of the botanical enthusiasm of the boy would be a very poor invention, if the final outcome were to be a being who has hardly the talent to discriminate a mushroom from an apple tree, and for whom nothing in the world appears so dry as squeezed plants. But I have not to invent here : I am reporting. I thus confess frankly my weakness for dissected vegetables : it lasted about three years. Then came my passion for physical instruments : an uncle gave me on my birthday some dainty little electrical machines, and soon the whole house was overspun with electrical wires. I was thus, at twelve years, on the best road to discover the patent-hunter in my personality, when a friend with ministerial inclinations interfered: we began to study comparative religion, Islamism in particular. Thus, at fifteen years of age we learned Arabic from the grammar, and read the Koran. Now, finally, my true nature was found; my friend wrote prophetically in my album that we should both go out as missionaries to the Arabs, — and yet I missed the connection, and went to Boston instead of to Mecca, and forgot on the way all my Arabic. But trouble began soon afterward : friends of mine found, in digging on their farm, an old Slavic grave containing interesting urns. I became fascinated by ethnological discoveries, and, as important excavations were going on in the neighborhood of my native town, I spent every free afternoon and whole vacation weeks in the ethnological camp, studied the literature of the subject and dug up urns for our town museum, and wrote, at the age of seventeen, a never published book on the prehistoric anthropology of West Prussia. Then the happy school days came to an end, and yet I had not found myself. I have never dug any more. I did not become an ethnologist, and if a visitor to Cambridge insists on my showing him the Harvard sights, and we come into the ethnological museum, the urns bore me so utterly that it is hard for me to believe that in earlier days they made all my happiness. I went, then, to the university with something like a liberal education ; supplemented the school studies by some broader studies in literature, science, and philosophy ; and when, in the middle of my philosophical studies, I came to psychology, the lightning struck. Exactly ten years after leaving school, years devoted to psychological studies and psychological teaching in German universities, Harvard called me over the ocean as professor of psychology. I thus found my life work ; and in all these years I have never had an hour in which I doubted that it was my life work. Yet I did not approach it, in spite of all those various fancy interests, before I reached the intellectual level of the graduate school.
I have spoken of these boyish passions not only to show that we had an abundance of free time and the best opportunities for the growth of individual likings, but for the purpose of emphasizing — and I add this with all the gratitude of my heart to my parents, my teachers, and the community — that the school never took the smallest account of those inclinations, and never allowed me to take the slightest step aside from the prescribed school work. My school work was not adjusted to botany at nine years because I played with an herbarium, and at twelve to physics because I indulged in noises with home - made electric bells, and at fifteen to Arabic, — an elective which I miss still in several high schools, even in Brookline and Roxbury. The more my friends and I wandered afield with our little superficial interests and talents and passions, the more was the straightforward earnestness of the school our blessing; and all that beautified and enriched our youth, and gave to it freshness and liveliness, would have turned out to be our ruin, if our elders had taken it seriously, and had formed a life’s programme out of petty caprices and boyish inclinations. I still remember how my father spoke to me, when I was a boy of twelve. I was insisting that Latin was of no use to me, as I should become a poet or a physicist. He answered: “ If a lively boy has to follow a country road, it is a natural and good thing for him to stroll a hundred times from the way, and pick flowers and run for butterflies over the fields on both sides of the road. But if we say to him, ‘ There is no road for you ; follow your butterflies,’ where will he find himself at nightfall ? ”
My question was, how our German school made it possible to bring us so much more quickly, without overburdening us, to the level of the American senior. I have given so far only a negative characteristic of the school in saying that it made no concession to individual likings and preferences : that is of course not a sufficient explanation. If I think back, I feel sure the chief source of this success was the teachers. But in regard to the teachers, also, I may begin with a negative statement: our teachers did not know anything about the theory of education, or about the history of pedagogy or psychology; and while I heard about some of them gossip of a rather malicious kind, I never heard that any one of them had read a book on child study. The other day I found in a paper on secondary education a lamentation to this effect: that the American schools have still many teachers who have no reflective theories on the aim with which they teach their subjects, and the educational values which belong to them. The author said : “ I shall not soon forget the surprise with which an intelligent teacher said to me, not long ago, ‘ An aim ! I have no aim in teaching ; that is a new idea.’ ” “ Such teachers of Latin and algebra,” the author compassionately added, “ meant that the choice of these subjects as fit subjectmatter of instruction was no concern of theirs ; they taught these subjects as best they could, because these subjects were in the course of study.” Exactly such old-fashioned teachers were ours. My literature teacher was never troubled by the suspicion that literature may be less useful than meteorology and organic chemistry, neither of which had a place in our school; and if some one had asked my Greek teacher, “ What is the value of the instruction in Greek ? What is your aim in reading Sophocles and Plato with your young friends in the class ? ” he would have answered that he had never thought about it, any more than why he was willing to breathe and to live. He taught his Greek as best he could in the place to which he was called, but he certainly never took it as his concern to reflect whether Greek instruction ought not, after all, to be discontinued ; he left that to the principal and to the government. His Plato and his Sophocles, his Homer and Thucydides, were to him life and happiness, and to share them with us was an instinctive desire, which would have lost its enthusiasm and inspiration if he had tried to base it on arguments.
But this thought has led me from the negative characteristics of my teachers to a rather positive one, — yes, to the most positive one which I felt in them, — to the one which was the real secret of our German school: my teachers were enthusiastic on the subjects they taught, as only those who know them thoroughly ever can be. I had no teacher who hastily learned one day what he must teach me the next; who was satisfied with second - hand knowledge, which is quite pretty for entertainment and orientation, but which is so intolerable and inane when we come to distribute it and to give it to others. I had from my ninth year no teacher in any subject who had not completed three years’ work in the graduate school. Even the first elements of Greek and mathematics, of history and geography, were given to us by men who had reached the level of the doctorate, and who had the perspective of their own fields. They had seen their work with the eye of the scholar, and thus even the most elementary material of their science was raised to the height of scholarly interest. Elements taken for themselves alone are trivial and empty everywhere, and to teach them is an intolerable drudgery, which fills the schoolroom with dullness and the pupils with aversion. Elements as the introductory part of a scholarly system are of ever new and fascinating interest, more promising and enjoyable than any complex problems. A great poet once said that any man who has ever really loved in his youth can never become quite unhappy in life. A man who has ever really taken a scholarly view of his science can never find in that science anything which is quite uninteresting. Such enthusiasm is contagious. We boys felt that our teachers believed with the fullness of their hearts in the inner value of the subjects, and every new bit of knowledge was thus for us a new revelation. We did not ask whether it would bake bread for us. We were eager for it on account of its own inner richness and value; and this happy living in an atmosphere of such ideal belief in the inner worth and glory of literature and history, of science and thought, was our liberal education.
I know it would be wrong to explain our being three years ahead of a New England boy merely by the scholarly preparation of our teachers. A second factor, which is hardly less important, stands clear before my mind, too: the help which the school found in our homes. I do not mean that we were helped in our work, but the teachers were silently helped by the spirit which prevailed in our homes with regard to the school work. The school had the right of way; our parents reinforced our belief in the work and our respect for the teachers. A reprimand in the school was a shadow on our home life; a word of praise in the school was a ray of sunshine for the household. The excellent schoolbooks, the wise plans for the upbuilding of the ten years’ course, the hygienic care, the external stimulations, — all, of course, helped toward the results; and yet I am convinced that their effect was entirely secondary compared with these two features, — the scholarly enthusiasm of our teachers, and the respect for the school on the part of our parents.
No one can jump over his shadow. I cannot suddenly leave all my memories and experiences behind me, and when I behold the onward rush of our school reformers, I cannot forget my past; I may admire their good will, but I cannot accept their bad arguments. I do not speak here as a psychologist ; I know quite well that some consider the psychologist a pedagogical expert, who brings the profoundest information directly from his laboratory to the educational witness stand. No such power has come to me. I do not know whether my professional brethren have had pleasanter experiences, but I have always found Psychology silent as a sphinx, when I came to her with the question of what we ought to do in the walks of practical life. When I asked her about the true and the false, she was most loquacious ; but when I came to her about the good and the bad, seeking advice and help, she never vouchsafed me a word. I confess that I have, therefore, slowly become a little skeptical as to whether she is really more communicative with my psychological friends, or whether they do not simply take her perfect silence for a welcome affirmation of all their own thoughts and wishes. I thus come to the question of school reform without any professional authority; I come to it simply with the warm interest of a man who has children in the schools, who has daily contact with students just out of school, and who has not forgotten his own school time.
The most essential feature of all recent school reforms — or, with a less question - begging title, I should say school experiments, or school changes, or school deteriorations — has been the tendency toward elective studies. But I am in doubt whether we should consider it really as one tendency only ; the name covers two very different tendencies, whose practical result is externally similar. We have on one side the desire to adjust the school work to the final purposes of the individual in practical life; which means beginning professional preparation in that period which up to this time has been given over to liberal education. We have on the other side the desire to adjust the school work to the innate talents and likings of the individual, which means giving in the school work no place to that which finds inner resistance in the pupil. In the first case the university method filters down to the school; in the second case the kindergarten method creeps up to the school. In the one case the liberal education of the school is replaced by professional education ; in the other case the liberal education is replaced by liberal play. If one of the two tendencies were working alone, its imminent danger would be felt at once ; but as they seem to coöperate, the one working from the bottom and the other from the top, each hides for the moment the defects of the other. And yet the coincidence is almost accidental and entirely superficial; both desire to make concessions to individual differences. Peter and Paul ought not to have the same school education, we are told ; but the essential question what, after all, Peter ought to learn in school must be answered very differently, according as we look at it from the point of view of the kindergarten or from the point of view of professional life ; as there is indeed a difference whether I ask what may best suit the taste and liking of Peter the darling, or whether I ask what Peter the man will need for the battle of life, in which nobody asks what he likes, but where the question is how he is liked, and how he suits the tastes of his neighbors. The one method treats the boy as a child, and the other treats the boy as a man. Nothing is common to them, after all, except the result that boyhood loses its opportunity for a liberal education, which ought to borrow from the kindergarten merely its remoteness from practical professional life, and from professional work merely its seriousness. Neither tendency stands alone in our social life. In short, the one fits the mercenary spirit of our time, and the other fits its spirit of selfish enjoyment. From the standpoint of social philosophy, mercenary utilitarianism and selfish materialism belong together ; everywhere do they grow together, and everywhere do they fight together against the spirit of idealism. But while they fight together, they march to the battlefield on very different roads.
Practical life demands division of labor, and therefore the specialization of the individual. The argument which urges the earliest possible beginning of this specialization is thus a natural one ; and the conviction that the struggle for existence must become more difficult with the growing complexity of modern life may encourage the view that the remedy lies in professional training at the expense of all other education. The lawyer and the physician need so many facts for the efficiency of their work that it seems a waste of energy to burden the future lawyer with the knowledge of natural sciences, and the future physician with the knowledge of history. If this is true, however, we ought to begin still earlier: on the first day in the kindergarten, I should show my little lawyer two cakes, and explain to him that one is his cake, and the other is not, — social information which does not lie in the line of my little naturalist; and I should tell the other little fellow that one cake has plums, and the other has not, —scientific instruction which is without concern for the future lawyer. But even if I shape my school according to such schemes, do I really reach, after all, the goal at which I am aiming ? Does not the utilitarian spirit deceive itself ? And even if we do not acknowledge any other standpoint but the mercenary one, is not the calculation very superficial ? The laborer in the mill may be put, sometimes, by the cruelty of the age of steam, in a place where his personality as a whole is crippled, and only one small function is in use; but the higher the profession, the more nearly is the whole man working in every act, and the more, therefore, is a broad general education necessary to practical efficiency. The biologists tell us that the play of animals is a biologically necessary preparation for the struggle of existence, and that, in a parallel way, also, the playing of the child is the wise scheme of nature to prepare man in some respect for the struggles of life. How infinitely more does that hold for the widening of the mind by a well-planned liberal education !
The higher the level on which the professional specializing begins, the more effective it is. I have said that we German boys did not think of any specialization and individual variation before we reached a level corresponding to the college graduation here. In this country, the college must still go on for a while playing the double role of the place for the general education of the one, and the workshop for the professional training of the other; but at least the high school ought to be faithful to its only goal of general education without professional anticipations. Moreover, we are not only professional wage-earners : we live for our friends and our nation ; we face social and political, moral and religious problems ; we are in contact with nature and science, with art and literature; we shape our town and our time, and all that is common to every one, — to the banker and the manufacturer, to the minister and the teacher, to the lawyer and the physician. The technique of our profession, then, appears only as a small variation of the large background of work in which we all share ; and if the education must be adapted to our later life, all these problems demand a uniform education for the members of the same social community. The division of labor lies on the outside. We are specialists in our handiwork, but our heart work is uniform, and the demand for individualized education emphasizes the small differences in our tasks, and ignores the great similarities.
And after all, who is able to say what a boy of twelve years will need for his special life work ? It is easily said in a school programme that the course will be adapted to the needs of the particular pupil with respect to his later life, but it would be harder to say how we are to find out what the boy does need; and even if we know it, the straight line to the goal is not always the shortest way.
The one need of my individual fate, compared with that of other German boys, is the English language, and the one great blank in the prescribed programme of our gymnasium was the total absence of instruction in English. Yet I have such unlimited confidence in the wisdom of my teachers that I cannot help thinking they knew quite well how my case stood. When I was twelve years old, I can imagine, the principal of the school said in a faculty meeting: “ This boy will need the English language later, to philosophize on the other side of the ocean, and he ought to begin now to learn it, in time for his professional work ; to get the free time for it we must eliminate the Greek from his course.” But then my dear little grayhaired Greek teacher arose, and said with indignation : “ No, sir: the bit of English which is necessary to lecture to students, and to address teachers’ meetings, and to write for The Atlantic Monthly can be learned at any time, but Greek he will never learn if he does not learn it now ; and if he does not have it, he will never get that inspiration which may make his scholarly work worth calling him over the ocean. Only if he studies Greek will they call him to use English; but if he learns only English, he will never have the chance to use it.” That settled my case, and so came about the curious chance that I accepted the professorship at Harvard without having spoken a single word of English in my life ; and I still thank my old Greek teacher, who is long since dead, for his decision. Yes, as I think it over, I am inclined to believe that it is just so in most cases : if we prepare for the one thing, we shall have a chance for the other ; but if we wisely prepare at once for the other, our chance for it will never come. Life is, after all, not so easily manufactured as the advertising circular of a private boarding school, in which everything is exactly adapted to the individual needs.
This elective adjustment of the studies to the later professional work and business of the man plays a large part in the theoretical discussions, and there acts effectively on the crowd through the promise of professional success ; but it strikes me that this utilitarian appeal works, on the whole, for the interest of that other kind of electivism which promises ease through the adjustment of the school to the personal inclinations. It seems to me that, in the practical walks of education, this is by far the stronger impulse to election. Even in the college, where most boys have at least a dim idea of what they want to do in life, the election with reference to the later occupation plays usually a secondary rôle ; liking is the great ruler. The university method were powerless in the school reform, did it not act as agent for the kindergarten method. This leading plea for electives takes the following form : All instruction must be interesting ; if the pupil’s interest is not in it, the whole instruction is dead matter, useless vexation. Everything which appeals to the natural tastes and instincts of the child is interesting. Instruction, therefore, must be adjusted to the natural instincts and tastes.
The logical fallacy of this ought to be evident. All instruction which is good must be interesting ; but does it follow therefrom that all instruction which is interesting must also be good ? Is it not possible that there are kinds of interest which are utterly bad and destructive ? All that appeals to the natural tastes and instincts is interesting ; does it follow that nothing is interesting which goes beyond the natural instincts ? Is it not savage life to follow merely the instincts and natural desires ? Is not all the meaning of education just to discriminate between good and bad desires; to suppress the lower instincts, and to reinforce the higher ; above all, to awake new desires, to build up new interests, to create new instincts? If civilization, with its instruments of home and school education, could not overcome our natural tastes and instinctive desires, we should remain forever children whose attention is captured by everything that excites and shines. The street tune would expel the symphony, the prize fight would overcome the drama, the yellow press and the dime novel would be our literature ; our social life would be vulgar, our public life hysterical, and our intellectual life a mixture of cheap gossip and sensational news with practical schemes for comfort and advertisement. Yes, instruction must be full of interest; but whether instruction is good or bad, is in the spirit of civilization or against it, depends upon the question what sort of interest is in the play : that which vulgarizes, or that which refines ; that which the street boy brings from the slums to the school, or that which the teacher brings from the graduate school to the country classroom. The more internal the motives which capture the attention, the higher the mental functions to which we appeal, the more we are really educators. The platform is no variety show ; the boys must be inspired, but not amused.
I am not afraid to push my heresy even to the point of seeing with serious doubts the rapidly growing tendency toward the demonstrative method in scientific instruction. No doubt all such illustrations strongly appeal to common sense; our happy children, the public thinks, see and touch everything, where we had only words on words. But the words appealed to a higher power than the demonstrations : those spoke to the understanding, these to the perception ; those gave us the laws, these the accidental realizations. No demonstration, no experiment, can really show us the totality of a law; it shows us always only one special case, which as such is quite unimportant. Its importance lies in the necessity which can be expressed merely by words, and never by apparatus. The deeper meaning of naturalistic instruction is by far more fully present in the book than in the instrument ; and while it is easier to teach and to learn natural science when it appeals to the eye rather than to the reason, I doubt whether it has, from a higher standpoint, the same educational value, just as I doubt whether the doll with a silk dress and a phonograph in the chest has the same value for the development of the child at play that the simple little wooden doll has. The question of scientific instruction is, of course, far too complex to be analyzed here; the method of demonstrations has some good features ; and above all, the other kind of instruction, to be valuable at all, needs much better teachers than those whom the schools have at their disposal. I wish only to point out that even here, where the popular agreement is unanimous, very serious hesitation is possible.
I have spoken of the damage to the subject-matter of instruction, which results from the limitation of the work to personal taste ; but there is also a formal side of education, which is to me more important. A child who has himself the right of choice, or who sees that parents and teachers select the courses according to his tastes and inclinations, may learn a thousand pretty things, but never the one which is the greatest of all: to do his duty. He who is allowed always to follow the paths of least resistance never develops the power to overcome resistance ; he remains utterly unprepared for life. To do what we like to do, — that needs no pedagogical encouragement : water always runs downhill. Our whole public and social life shows the working of this impulse, and our institutions outbid one another in catering to the taste of the public. The school alone has the power to develop the opposite tendency, to encourage and train the belief in duties and obligations, to inspire devotion to better things than those to which we are drawn by our lower instincts. Yes, water runs downhill all the time; and yet all the earth were sterile and dead if water could not ascend again to the clouds, and supply rain to the field which brings us the harvest. We see only the streams going down to the ocean ; we do not see how the ocean sends up the waters to bless our fields. Just so do we see in the streams of life the human emotions following the impulses down to selfishness and pleasure and enjoyment, but we do not see how the human emotions ascend again to the ideals, — ascend in feelings of duty and enthusiasm ; and yet without this upward movement our fields were dry, our harvest lost. That invisible work is the sacred mission of the school; it is the school that must raise man’s mind from his likings to his belief in duties, from his instincts to his ideals, that art and science, national honor and morality, friendship and religion, may spring from the ground and blossom.
But I go further: are elective studies really elected at all ? I mean, do they really represent the deeper desires and demands of the individual, or do they not simply express the cumulation of a hundred chance influences ? I have intentionally lingered on the story of my shifting interests in my boyhood; it is more or less the story of every halfwayintelligent boy or girl. A little bit of talent, a petty caprice favored by accident, a contagious craze or fad, a chance demand for something of which scarcely the outside is known, — all these whir and buzz in every boyhood ; but to follow such superficial moods would mean dissolution of all organized life, and education would be an empty word. Election which is more than a chance grasping presupposes first of all acquaintance with the object of our choice. Even in the college two thirds of the elections are haphazard, controlled by accidental motives ; election of courses demands a wide view and broad knowledge of the whole field. The lower the level on which the choice is made, the more external and misleading are the motives which direct it. A helter-skelter chase of the unknown is no election. If a man who does not know French goes into a restaurant where the bill of fare is given in the French language, and points to one and to another line, not knowing whether his order is fish or roast or pudding, the waiter will bring him a meal, but we cannot say that he has “ elected his courses.”
From whatever standpoint I view it, the tendency to base the school on elective studies seems to me a mistake, — a mistake for which, of course, not a special school, but the social consciousness is to be blamed. I cannot think much better of that second tendency of which I spoke, — the tendency to improve the schools by a pedagogical - psychological preparation of the teachers. I said that, just as I had no right of election over my courses, my teachers had no idea of pedagogy and psychology. I do not think that they would have been better teachers with such wisdom than without it. I doubt, even, whether it would not have changed things for the worse. I do not believe in lyrics which are written after the prescriptions of æsthetics ; I have the fullest respect for the scholar in poetical theory, but he ought not to make the poets believe that they need his advice before they dare to sing. Psychology is a wonderful science, and pedagogy, as soon as we shall have it, may be a wonderful science, too, and very important for school organizers, for superintendents and city officials, but the individual teacher has little practical use for it. I have discussed this point so often before the public that I am unwilling to repeat my arguments here. I have again and again shown that in the practical contact of the schoolroom the teacher can never gain that kind of knowledge of the child which would enable him to get the right basis for psychological calculation, and that psychology itself is unable to do justice to the demands of the individual case. I have tried to show how conscious occupation with pedagogical rules interferes with instinctive views of right pedagogical means; and, above all, how the analytic tendency of the psychological and pedagogical attitude is diametrically opposite to that practical attitude, full of tact and sympathy, which we must demand of the real teacher ; and that the training in the one attitude inhibits freedom in the other. And when I see that teachers sometimes interpret my warning as if I wished merely to say, “ I, as a psychologist, dislike to have any one approach the science with the purely practical question whether it bakes bread, instead of with a purely theoretical interest,” I must object to that interpretation. I did not wish merely to say that the bread question would better be delayed ; no, the teacher ought to know from the beginning that if he takes the bread which psychology bakes, indigestion must follow.
Yet I do not mean to be narrow. I do not think that if teachers go through psychological and pedagogical studies they really will suffer very much; they will do with them what they do with most studies, — they will forget them. And if they forget them, what harm, then, — why all this fighting against it, as if a danger were in question ? This brings me, finally, to my last but chief point: I think, indeed, that great dangers do exist, and that the psychopedagogical movement does serious damage, not so much because it affects the teacher, but because it, together with the elective studies, turns the attention of the public from the only essential and important point, upon which, I feel deeply convinced, the true reform of our schools is dependent, — the better instruction of our teachers. That was the secret, I said, in our German schools; the most elementary teaching was given by men who were experts in their field, who had the perspective of it, and whose scholarly interest filled them with an enthusiasm that inspired the class. To bring that condition about must be the aim of every friend of American school life. That is the one great reform which is needed, and till this burning need is removed it is useless to put forward unimportant changes. These little pseudo-reforms become, indeed, a wrong, if they make the public forget that true help and true reform are demanded. If a child is crying because it is ill, we may keep it quiet for a while by a piece of candy, but we do not make it well; and it is a wrong to quiet it, if its silence makes us omit to call the physician to cure it. The elective studies and the pedagogical courses are such sweetmeats for the school. The schools were bad, and the public was dissatisfied; now the elective studies relieve the discomfort of the children, in the place of the old vexation they have a good time, and the parents are glad that the drudgery is over. And when, nevertheless, a complaint arises, and the parents discover that the children do not learn anything and that they become disrespectful, then there comes the chance for the man with the psychological — and pedagogical — training; he is not a better teacher, but he can talk about the purposes of the new education till all is covered by beautiful words; and thus parents and children are happily satisfied for a while, till the time comes when the nation has to pay for its neglect in failing really to cure the sick child. Just as it has been said that war needs three things, money, money, and again money, so it can be said with much greater truth that education needs, not forces and buildings, not pedagogy and demonstrations, but only men, men, and again men, — without forbidding that some, not too many of them, shall be women.
The right kind of men is what the schools need ; they have the wrong kind. They need teachers whose interest in the subject would banish all drudgery, and they have teachers whose pitiable unpreparedness makes the class work either so superficial that the pupils do not learn anything, or, if it is taken seriously, so dry and empty that it is a vexation for children and teachers alike. To produce anything equivalent to the teaching staff from whose guidance I benefited in my boyhood, no one ought to be allowed to teach in a grammar school who has not passed through a college or a good normal school; no one ought to teach in a high school who has not worked, after his college course, at least two years in the graduate school of a good university; no one ought to teach in a college who has not taken his doctor’s degree in one of the best universities; and no one ought to teach in a graduate school who has not shown his mastery of method by powerful scientific publications. We have instead a misery which can be characterized by one statistical fact: only two per cent of the school-teachers possess any degree whatever. If the majority of college teachers are hardly prepared to teach in a secondary school, if the majority of highschool teachers are hardly fit to teach in a primary school, and if the majority of primary-school teachers are just enough educated to fill a salesgirl’s place in a millinery store, then every other reform is self-deceit.
I do not feel at all surprised that many of my brethren who are seriously interested in the progress of education rush forward in the wrong direction. They have been brought up under the prescribed system with teachers who did not know pedagogy, and they feel instinctively that the schools are bad and need reform. It is only natural for them to think that the prescriptive system is guilty, and that pedagogy can help us ; they are so filled with aversion to the old - fashioned school that they think only of the matter which they were taught, and the method after which they were taught; but as they have no standard of comparison in their own experience, they never imagine that it may have been the men alone, the teachers, who were responsible for the failures. These friends have never experienced what my classmates and I enjoyed, — prescribed courses with expert teachers. They do not and cannot imagine the revolution which comes into the schoolroom as soon as a teacher stands on the platform who has the inspiring enthusiasm for his science which springs from a profound scholarly knowledge. No pedagogical technique can be substituted for this only real preparation of the teacher ; and I fear that pedagogy must become a hindrance to educational progress, if it ever causes the principal or the school board to prefer the teacher who has learned pedagogy to the teacher who has learned the subject he is going to teach.
But my German memories not only arouse in me a pessimism with regard to those pseudo-reforms; they give me also most optimistic hopes with regard to a point which may be raised as an objection to my views. The teaching staff is bad indeed, it has often been said, but how can we hope for an improvement ? The boys leave the high school at eighteen years of age, the college at twentytwo ; how can we hope that an average high-school teacher will devote a still larger part of his life to the preparation for his professional work, and will spend two or three years more in a graduate school before he begins to earn his living ? This argument is utterly wrong, as it neglects the interrelation of the different factors. If we had thoroughly prepared teachers, the aims of the school would be reached here just as quickly as in Germany, where, as I have shown, the level of American high-school graduation is attained at fifteen years, and the level of American average college graduation at eighteen or nineteen. Time which, with the teachers of to-day, is hardly sufficient to bring a man through a good high school would then be enough to give him a college education, and the time which to-day is necessary to pull him through college should be enough to give him three years in the graduate school. I was twenty-two when I took my doctor’s degree in Leipzig, and so were most of my friends. The change cannot come suddenly ; but as soon as the public recognizes in what direction true school reform must lie, it can be brought about by a slow, persistent pushing along that line. If the schools insist more and more on the solid scholarship of the teachers, the time in which the ends of the school are reached will become shorter and shorter: this will give more and more room for the continuation of study on the part of the future teachers, and thus we should enter upon a beneficial revolution which would in a short time supply the whole country with efficient teachers. If we look at the situation from this point of view, we can hardly doubt that even those who have only the utilitarian interest in mind, — yes, even those who think of the mercenary aspect only, — that even those must prefer this true reform to the efforts of the “ new education ” men who operate with pedagogy and elective studies. Those three years which every American boy loses through the bad preparation of his teachers represent a loss for the practical achievement in later life which cannot be compensated for by an early beginning of professional training through electives. It is a loss for the man, and an incomparable loss for the nation.
I merely indicated one other feature of our German education when I disclosed the secret of its efficiency. I said our parents reinforced in us respect for the school, and the home atmosphere was filled with belief in the duties of school life. Our parents did not need mothers’ clubs and committees for that, and there was little discussion about what children need in abstracto ; but they made their children feel that the home and the school were working in alliance. We boys took all that as a matter of course, and what it meant I never quite understood before I crossed the ocean. I feel inclined to say that what our school children need is not only good teachers, but also good parents. However, as Lincoln said, one war at a time.