Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/51

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39
METHODS OF TEACHING POLITICAL ECONOMY.

text-book they note in the margins in a few penciled words the gist of each paragraph as it is read; then, at the close of the chapter, to advise the reader to review it by means of his marginal notes, and then make a general but brief synopsis of the chapter. This will both save time and teach that essential thing—how to study rapidly but thoroughly. It will destroy aimless reading, which is so common in these days of many books.

10. In advanced courses, much of what has been said in regard to these details will be less important, for the teaching is necessarily different in kind. Such courses naturally fall either (1) into those which continue to study principles, as the systems of various writers or schools of political economy in the past and present, or (2) into those which treat historical or practical questions. In the former the lecture system is unsatisfactory for reasons given above; and the class should themselves be constantly wrestling with the fuller discussion of subjects in which they can hitherto have had only a general knowledge. Experience seems to show that a topic, furnished with references to writers, affords the best method of procedure. This, of course, implies a good working library and a list of reserved books.

In the practical courses a large part of the training consists in teaching the student how to use books, how to familiarize himself with the principal storehouses of statistics, such, for example, as the English "Parliamentary Documents," or our own Government publications; how to collect his materials in a useful form; and then how to apply graphic representation wherever possible. The greatest good comes, of course, from putting the student on his own resources at once and forcing him to find his own materials, look up his own books and authorities, and come to a conclusion on the subject assigned to him independently of all aid or suggestion. The instructor can then at the conferences take up a paper for criticism and discussion, or first assign it to another member for that purpose. This is a feasible plan; but, if carried on throughout a whole course, it requires of the student so much time that his other work must suffer, and, in addition, but few subjects can be taken up in this thorough and leisurely way. In practice it has been found best to use the lecture system partially. One subject can be taken up by the instructor at regular exercises, for which he furnishes beforehand the references, and partly lectures and partly discusses the subject with his class, thus guiding them steadily over the field and directing the disposition of the time to be devoted to each subject. In this way many more subjects can be reached during the year. But the advantages of the investigating method can be partly retained by requiring a monograph from each member of the class on a practical subject of his own selection from a list prepared by the instructor, and this thesis can count for attendance on part of the lecture-work. In this thesis the student is pushed to do his best to give a really serious study to some particular topic, and he