Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/44

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40
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

WASTE IN ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
By Principal FRANKLIN W. JOHNSON
UNIVERSITY HIGH SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

THE test of efficiency is being applied to every form of organized activity. Methods of procedure in commerce, manufacture and government are being studied to discover the causes of waste and on the basis of these studies new methods are being devised to eliminate waste in time and effort. The same tests are being applied to our religious, philanthropic and educational organizations. A typical illustration is seen in the investigation made by the Bureau of Municipal Expenditures for the public schools of the city of New York. Another illustration in the field of higher education is afforded by the state of Kansas in which a commission has recently been appointed to study the efficiency of the various institutions of the state with a view to such a reorganization as will avoid the waste involved in the present duplication of equipment and instruction. Similar tests are being made in other school systems and in single institutions. But all of these, though most significant, represent somewhat isolated and local conditions.

At the same time, however, the efficiency of our entire system of elementary and secondary schools is being called in question. A committee of the department of superintendents of the National Education Association on Economy of Time in Elementary and Secondary Education appointed in 1911 is investigating the problem. Their preliminary reports indicate that a thorough study of the situation is being made which may be expected to form the basis for important changes.

The history of education in this country shows that our system of organization, assigning eight years to elementary, four years to secondary, and four years to collegiate education, was not based on any rational theory, but was rather the result of accident. Each type sprang up in a large measure independently of the others, in response to distinct social demands, and a satisfactory adjustment of these independent parts to the needs of a coherent and efficient system of education has not yet been made.

In no other country is a similar organization found. Germany may be cited as typical with three years devoted to elementary, nine years to secondary, and four years to university education. The American college with two years of secondary work and two years of university work is unique. It is a significant fact that the Japanese, who have shown wonderful skill in selecting and adapting to their needs the best in western civilization, have modeled their new school system, not upon