Shackled Youth: Comments on Schools, School People, and Other People

IT is a fine thing for a man ‘ who stands outside the school world,’ to speak out loud and clear, but with charity and good humor, as Mr. Yeomans has done. In writing his little book, he was ‘letting off steam’; but, while dead in earnest. he seems to have had a thoroughly good time.
' We must,’says he, ‘raise the level of the public schools’; but he doubts whether the schools can be ‘pulled up’ from above by writing about them. ‘To pull schools up,’ he explains, ‘ you have to get under them, down into the mud and muck, and lift.’ There is something to be said for this idea, but not much. He himself has taken a better way. His plan of fertilizing people’s minds by means of a breezy, amusing, interesting book is likely to do more good than all the heaving and hauling by main strength of any band of reformers, however devoted.
Mr. Yeomans’s idea is that teaching is at present mostly under the tyranny of Mr. Gradgrind; that what it needs for its improvement is, not efficiency experts, but enthusiastic artists who know their subjects, not as ‘book-learning,’but as so much exciting and enjoyable living; and that, until we can find teachers of this sort, our schoolboys and girls will continue to be ‘shackled youth.’ He applies his idea to geography, history, and other things, and ends with a stimulating essay on the value of cross-fertilization in school and in society.
It is hard to see how any true teacher or thoughtful parent can disagree. The only objections conceivable are not, as he himself concedes, of theory, but of practicality. Some day we are going to accept as a matter of course his contention that the vital force in education is the teacher; and we are going to obtain the right kind of teachers, no matter what it costs. We are going to stop supposing that any such elusive and subtle art can be ’organized’ or ’administered into perfection. We are going to stop admiring buildings and equipment and schedules, and are going to begin to admire skill, devotion, originality — in short, all the personal and spiritual elements of education, without which the others are so much dead machinery. When we have really begun to do this, we shall have become willing to spend most of our money on teachers, —at least three times as much as we do now,—and to honor the profession as the most important in society. As soon as we are willing to do this, we can demand that the teacher shall be fit, both in personality and in attainments, for his job. We can demand that he shall have traveled, worked, studied, read, experienced, enjoyed, as any person who is entrusted with the destinies of children should have done. Hut until we are ready to make the profession one in which a liberal and devoted and proficient human being can be happy, we shall continue to have the kind of schools which Mr. Yeomans deplores.
As a first step in ‘cross-fertilization,’every parent and teacher should read Shackled Youth.
R. M. GAY.