Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/43

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METHODS OF TEACHING POLITICAL ECONOMY.

iam in Calcutta may be again referred to, as there, I believe, the immunity from cholera now enjoyed was due not merely to the introduction of a better supply of water, but largely also to the improvement in the other matters of hygiene.


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METHODS OF TEACHING POLITICAL ECONOMY.

By J. LAURENCE LAUGHLIN, Ph.D.,

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL ECONOMY IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY.

A NATION is sometimes so bitterly taught by sad experience in financial errors—as was the case with France in John Law's time, and again in the issue of paper assignats during the Revolution—that, on the principle of the "burned child," it ever afterward finds that it unconsciously keeps to the right and avoids the wrong path. So that to-day France is a country where correct conceptions of money are almost universal, and her public monetary experiments are, as a rule, most admirably conducted. In somewhat the same way does the individual gain his proper knowledge of political economy. Principles must be seen working in a concrete form. The key to efficient teaching of the subject is to connect principles with actual facts; and this process must go on in the beginner's mind only through experience. By experience, I mean the personal (subjective) effort of each one to realize the working of the principle for himself in the facts of his own knowledge. The pupil must be put in the way of assimilating for himself the principles of his subject, in such a manner that he feels their truth because they are apparent in explanation of concrete things all around him. And for this purpose nothing is so useful as a sharp struggle, an effort, a keen discussion, or possibly a failure of comprehension at the time; for nothing will so awaken one to intellectual effort and finally result in the safe lodgment of the principle within one's thinking as an obstruction and its removal. That this is the aim to be always kept in view by the teacher and student is made clear, it is to be hoped, by the previous analysis of the "Character and Discipline of Political Economy." It is now my purpose to make some suggestions as to the practical methods of teaching by which this can be carried into effect:

1. The relative advantages of lectures and recitations in political economy have never, to my knowledge, been openly discussed. An experience with both methods of teaching leads me to think that the lecture system, pure and simple, is so ineffective that it ought to be set aside at once as entirely undesirable. No matter how clear the exposition of the principles may be, no matter how fresh and striking the illustrations, it still remains that the student is relieved by the instructor