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I. THE WORK OF THE TEACHER






From: How to Teach

Education is a group enterprise. We establish schools in which we seek
to develop whatever capacities or abilities the individual may possess
in order that he may become intelligently active for the common good.
Schools do not exist primarily for the individual, but, rather, for the
group of which he is a member. ndividual growth and development are
significant in terms of their meaning for the welfare of the whole
group. We believe that the greatest opportunity for the individual, as
well as his greatest satisfaction, are secured only when he works with
others for the common welfare. n the discussions which follow we are
concerned not simply with the individual's development, but also with
the necessity for inhibitions. There are traits or activities which
develop normally, but which are from the social point of view
undesirable. t is quite as much the work of the teacher to know how to
provide for the inhibition of the type of activity which is socially
undesirable, or how to substitute for such reactions other forms of
expression which are worthy, as it is to stimulate those types of
activity which promise a contribution to the common good. t is assumed
that the aim of education can be expressed most satisfactorily in terms
of social efficiency.

An acceptance of the aim of education stated in terms of social
efficiency leads us to discard other statements of aim which have been
more or less current. Chief among these aims, or statements of aim, are
the following: (1) culture; (2) the harmonious development of the
capacities or abilities of the individual; (3) preparing an individual
to make a living; (4) knowledge. We will examine these aims briefly
before discussing at length the implications of the social aim.

Those who declare that it is the aim of education to develop men and
women of culture vary in the content which they give to the term
culture. t is conceivable that the person of culture is one who, by
virtue of his education, has come to understand and appreciate the many
aspects of the social environment in which he lives; that he is a man of
intelligence, essentially reasonable; and that he is willing and able to
devote himself to the common good. t is to be feared, however, that the
term culture, as commonly used, is interpreted much more narrowly. For
many people culture is synonymous with knowledge or information, and is
not interpreted to involve preparation for active participation in the
work of the world. Still others think of the person of culture as one
who has a type or kind of training which separates him from the ordinary
man. A more or less popular notion of the man of culture pictures him as
one living apart from those who think through present-day problems and
who devote themselves to their solution. t seems best, on account of
this variation in interpretation, as well as on account of the
unfortunate meaning sometimes attached to the term, to discard this
statement of the aim of education.

The difficulty with a statement of aim in terms of the harmonious
development of the abilities or capacities possessed by the individual
is found in the lack of any criterion by which we may determine the
desirability of any particular kind of development or action. We may
well ask for what purpose are the capacities or abilities of the
individual to be developed. t is possible to develop an ability or
capacity for lying, for stealing, or for fighting without a just cause.
What society has a right to expect and to demand of our schools is that
they develop or nourish certain tendencies to behave, and that they
strive earnestly to eliminate or to have inhibited other tendencies just
as marked. Another difficulty with the statement of aim in terms of the
harmonious development of the capacities is found in the difficulty of
interpreting what is meant by harmonious development. Do we mean equal
development of each and every capacity, or do we seek to develop each
capacity to the maximum of the individual's possibility of training? Are
we to try to secure equal development in all directions? Of one thing we
can be certain. We cannot secure equality in achievement among
individuals who vary in capacity. One boy may make a good mechanic,
another a successful business man, and still another a musician. t is
only as we read into the statement of harmonious development meanings
which do not appear upon the surface, that we can accept this statement
as a satisfactory wording of the aim of education.

The narrow utilitarian statement of aim that asserts that the purpose of
education is to enable people to make a living neglects to take account
of the necessity for social cooeperation. The difficulty with this
statement of aim is that it is too narrow. We do hope by means of
education to help people to make a living, but we ought also to be
concerned with the kind of a life they lead. They ought not to make a
living by injuring or exploiting others. They ought to be able to enjoy
the nobler pleasures as well as to make enough money to buy food,
clothing, shelter, and the like. The bread-and-butter aim breaks down as
does the all-around development aim because it fails to consider the
individual in relation to the social group of which he is a member.

To declare that knowledge is the aim of education is to ignore the issue
of the relative worth of that which we call knowledge. No one may know
all. What, then, from among all of the facts or principles which are
available are we to select and what are we to reject? The knowledge aim
gives us no satisfactory answer. We are again thrown back upon the
question of purpose. Knowledge we must have, but for the individual who
is to live in our modern, industrial, democratic society some knowledges
are more important than others. Society cannot afford to permit the
school to do anything less than provide that equipment in knowledge, in
skill, in ideal, or in appreciation which promises to develop an
individual who will contribute to social progress, one who will find his
own greatest satisfaction in working for the common good.

n seeking to relate the aim of education to the school activities of
boys and girls, it is necessary to inquire concerning the ideals or
purposes which actuate them in their regular school work. _deals of
service_ may be gradually developed, and may eventually come to control
in some measure the activities of boys and girls, but these ideals do
not normally develop in a school situation in which competition is the
dominating factor. We may discuss at great length the desirability of
working for others, and we may teach many precepts which look in the
direction of service, and still fail to achieve the purpose for which
our schools exist. An overemphasis upon marks and distinctions, and a
lack of attention to the opportunities which the school offers for
helpfulness and cooeperation, have often resulted in the development of
an individualistic attitude almost entirely opposed to the purpose or
aim of education as we commonly accept it.

There is need for much reorganization in our schools in the light of our
professed aim. There are only two places in our whole school system
where children are commonly so seated that it is easy for them to work
in cooeperation with each other. n the kindergarten, in the circle, or
at the tables, children normally discuss the problems in which they are
interested, and help each other in their work. n the seminar room for
graduate students in a university, it is not uncommon to find men
working together for the solution of problems in which they have a
common interest. n most classrooms in elementary and in high schools,
and even in colleges, boys and girls are seated in rows, the one back of
the other, with little or no opportunity for communication or
cooeperation. ndeed, helping one's neighbor has often been declared
against the rule by teachers. t is true that pupils must in many cases
work as individuals for the sake of the attainment of skill, the
acquirement of knowledge, or of methods of work, but a school which
professes to develop ideals of service must provide on every possible
occasion situations in which children work in cooeperation with each
other, and in which they measure their success in terms of the
contribution which they make toward the achievement of a common end.

The socially efficient individual must not only be actuated by ideals of
service, but must in the responses which he makes to social demands be
governed by his own careful thinking, or by his ability to distinguish
from among those who would influence him one whose solution of the
problem presented is based upon careful investigation or inquiry.
Especially is it true in a democratic society that the measure of the
success of our education is found in the degree to which we develop the
scientific attitude. Even those who are actuated by noble motives may,
if they trust to their emotions, to their prejudices, or to those
superstitions which are commonly accepted, engage in activities which
are positively harmful to the social group of which they are members.
Our schools should strive to encourage the spirit of inquiry and
investigation.

A large part of the work in most elementary schools and high schools
consists in having boys and girls repeat what they have heard or read.
t is true that such accumulation of facts may, in some cases, either at
the time at which they are learned, or later, be used as the basis for
thinking; but a teacher may feel satisfied that she has contributed
largely toward the development of the scientific spirit upon the part of
children only when this inquiring attitude is commonly found in her
classroom. The association of ideas which will result from an honest
attempt upon the part of boys and girls to find the solution of a real
problem will furnish the very best possible basis for the recall of the
facts or information which may be involved. The attempt to remember
pages of history or of geography, or the facts of chemistry or of
physics, however well they may be organized in the text-book, is usually
successful only until the examination period is passed. Children who
have engaged in this type of activity quite commonly show an appalling
lack of knowledge of the subjects which they have studied a very short
time after they have satisfied the examination requirement. The same
amount of energy devoted to the solution of problems in which children
may be normally interested may be expected not only to develop some
appreciation of scientific method in the fields in which they have
worked, but also to result in a control of knowledge or a memory of
facts that will last over a longer period of time.

Recitations should be places where children meet for the discussion of
problems which are vital to them. The question by the pupil should be as
common as the question by the teacher. Laboratory periods should not
consist of following directions, but rather in undertaking, in so far as
it is possible, real experiments. We may not hope that an investigating
or inquiring turn of mind encouraged in school will always be found
operating in the solution of problems which occur outside of school, but
the school which insists merely upon memory and upon following
instructions may scarcely claim to have made any considerable
contribution to the equipment of citizens of a democracy who should
solve their common problems in terms of the evidence presented. The
unthinking acceptance of the words of the book or the statement of the
teacher prepares the way for the blind following of the boss, for faith
in the demagogue, or even for acceptance of the statements of the quack.

The ideal school situation is one in which the spirit of inquiry and
investigation is constantly encouraged and in which children are
developing ideals of service by virtue of their _activity_. A high
school class in English literature in which children are at work in
small groups, asking each other questions and helping each other in the
solution of their problems, seems to the writer to afford unusual
opportunity for the realization of the social aim of education. A first
grade class in beginning reading, in which the stronger children seek to
help those who are less able, involves something more significant in
education than merely the command of the tool we call reading. A teacher
of a class in physics who suggested to his pupils that they find out
which was the more economical way to heat their homes,--with hot air,
with steam, or with hot water,--evidently hoped to have them use
whatever power of investigation they possessed, as well as to have them
come to understand and to remember the principles of physics which were
involved. n many schools the cooeperation of children in the preparation
of school plays, or school festivals, in the writing and printing of
school papers, in the participation in the school assembly, in the
making of shelves, tables, or other school equipment, in the working for
community betterment with respect to clean streets and the like, may be
considered even more significant from the standpoint of the realization
of the social aim of education than are the recitations in which they
are commonly engaged.

We have emphasized thus far the meaning of the social aim of education
in terms of methods of work upon the part of pupils. t is important to
call attention to the fact that the materials or content of education
are also determined by the same consideration of purposes. f we really
accept the idea of participation upon the part of children in modern
social life as the purpose of education, we must include in our courses
of study only such subject matter as may be judged to contribute toward
the realization of this aim. We must, of course, provide children with
the tools of investigation or of inquiry; but their importance should
not be overemphasized, and in their acquirement significant experiences
with respect to life activities should dominate, rather than the mere
acquisition of the tool. Beginning reading, for example, is important
not merely from the standpoint of learning to read. The teaching of
beginning reading should involve the enlarging and enriching of
experience. Thought getting is of primary importance for little children
who are to learn to read, and the recognition of symbols is important
only in so far as they contribute to this end. The best reading books no
longer print meaningless sentences for children to decipher. Mother
Goose rhymes, popular stories and fables, language reading lessons, in
which children relate their own experience for the teacher to print or
write on the board, satisfy the demand for content and aid, by virtue of
the interest which is advanced, in the mastering of the symbols.

t is, of course, necessary for one who would understand modern social
conditions or problems, to know of the past out of which our modern life
has developed. t is also necessary for one who would understand the
problems of one community, or of one nation, to know, in so far as it is
possible, of the experiences of other peoples. History and geography
furnish a background, without which our current problems could not be
reasonably attacked. Literature and science, the study of the fine arts,
and of our social institutions, all become significant in proportion as
they make possible contributions, by the individual who has been
educated, to the common good.

Any proper interpretation of the social purpose of education leads
inevitably to the conclusion that much that we have taught is of very
little significance. Processes in arithmetic which are not used in
modern life have little or no worth for the great majority of boys and
girls. Partnership settlements involving time, exact interest, the
extraction of cube and of square roots, partial payments, and many of
the problems in mensuration, might well be omitted from all courses of
study in arithmetic. Many of the unimportant dates in history and much
of the locational geography should disappear in order that a better
appreciation of the larger social movements can be secured, or in order
that the laws which control in nature may be taught. n English, any
attempt to realize the aim which we have in mind would lay greater
stress upon the accomplishment of children in speaking and writing our
language, and relatively less upon the rules of grammar.

t may well be asked how our conception of aim can be related to the
present tendency to offer a variety of courses of instruction, or to
provide different types of schools. The answer is found in an
understanding and appreciation of the fact that children vary
tremendously in ability, and that the largest contribution by each
individual to the welfare of the whole group can be made only when each
is trained in the field for which his capacity fits him. The movement
for the development of vocational education means, above all else, an
attempt to train all members of the group to the highest possible degree
of efficiency, instead of offering a common education which, though
liberal in its character, is actually neglected or refused by a large
part of our population.

Our interest in the physical welfare of children is accounted for by the
fact that no individual may make the most significant contribution to
the common good who does not enjoy a maximum of physical efficiency. The
current emphasis upon moral training can be understood when we accept
that conception of morality which measures the individual in terms of
his contribution to the welfare of others. However important it may be
that individuals be restrained or that they inhibit those impulses which
might lead to anti-social activity, of even greater importance must be
the part actually played by each member of the social group in the
development of the common welfare.

f we think of the problems of teaching in terms of habits to be fixed,
we must ask ourselves are these habits desirable or necessary for an
individual who is to work as a member of the social group. f we
consider the problem of teaching from the standpoint of development in
intelligence, we must constantly seek to present problems which are
worth while, not simply from the standpoint of the curiosity which they
arouse, but also on account of their relation to the life activities
with which our modern world is concerned. We must seek to develop the
power of appreciating that which is noble and beautiful primarily
because the highest efficiency can be secured only by those who use
their time in occupations which are truly recreative and not enervating.

As we seek to understand the problem of teaching as determined by the
normal mental development of boys and girls, we must have in mind
constantly the use to which their capacities and abilities are to be
put. Any adequate recognition of the social purpose of education
suggests the necessity for eliminating, as far as possible, that type of
action which is socially undesirable, while we strive for the
development of those capacities which mean at least the possibility of
contribution to the common good. We study the principles of teaching in
order that we may better adapt ourselves to the children's possibilities
of learning, but we must keep in mind constantly that kind of learning
and those methods of work which look to the development of socially
efficient boys and girls. We must seek to provide situations which are
in themselves significant in our modern social life as the subject
matter with which children may struggle in accomplishing their
individual development. We need constantly to have in mind the ideal of
school work which will value most highly opportunities for cooeperation
and for contribution to the common good upon the part of children, which
are in the last analysis entirely like the situations in which older
people contribute to social progress. More and more we must seek to
develop the type of pupil who knows the meaning of duty and who gladly
recognizes his obligations to a social group which is growing larger
with each new experience and each new opportunity.


QUESTONS


1. Why would you not be satisfied with a statement of the aim of
education which was expressed in terms of the harmonious development of
an individual's abilities and capacities?

2. Suggest any part of the courses of study now in force in your school
system the omission of which would be in accordance with the social aim
of education.

3. Name any subjects or parts of subjects which might be added for the
sake of realizing the aim of education.

4. How may a teacher who insists upon having children ask permission
before they move in the room interfere with the realization of the
social aim of education?

5. Can you name any physical habits which may be considered socially
undesirable? Desirable?

6. What is the significance of pupil participation in school government?

7. How does the teacher who stands behind his desk at the front of the
room interfere with the development of the right social attitude upon
the part of pupils?

8. Why is the desire to excel one's own previous record preferable to
striving for the highest mark?

9. n one elementary school, products of the school garden were sold and
from the funds thus secured apparatus for the playground was bought. n
another school, children sold the vegetables and kept the money. Which,
in your judgment, was the most worth while from the standpoint of the
social development of boys and girls?

10. A teacher of Latin had children collect words of Latin origin,
references to Latin characters, and even advertisements in which Latin
words or literary references were to be found. The children in the class
were enthusiastic in making these collections, and considerable interest
was added to the work in Latin. Are you able to discover in the exercise
any other value?

11. Describe some teaching in which you have recently engaged, or which
you have observed, in which the methods of work employed by teacher and
pupils seemed to you to contribute to a realization of the social
purpose of education.

12. How can a reading lesson in the sixth grade, or a history lesson in
the high school, be conducted to make children feel that they are doing
something for the whole group?

13. n what activities may children engage outside of school which may
count toward the betterment of the community in which they live?

* * * * *





Next: II. ORIGINAL NATURE, THE CAPITAL WITH WHICH TEACHERS WORK




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