The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Education, Study of

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Education, Study of
Edition of 1920. See also Education theory on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

EDUCATION, Study of. The study of education is, on the one hand, the study of a profession — the profession of the teacher, of whatever grade; and, on the other, the study of a social force — the force that preserves and improves the civilization of each generation, and transmits it to the next — and of the institutions which society has developed for the organization and administration of this force. It goes without saying that these two aspects of the Study of Education are not independent of each other. Further, it is clear that the study is either a professional or a “liberal” study in accordance with the object with which it is pursued. In this article no pains will be taken to keep these two aspects of the subject distinct. The context will make clear which aspect is under consideration, and also when both aspects are considered together.

The systematic study of education is now carried on in the United States chiefly in normal schools (State, city or private) and in colleges and universities. Less extended but often valuable opportunities for the study of education are afforded by county training schools for teachers, by classes in some high schools and academies, and by some other institutions: as, for example, training schools for kindergartners; some departments of the so-called “Institutes” (like Drexel Institute of Philadelphia, Pratt Institute of Brooklyn); and by “Teachers' Institutes.” Teachers' institutes are carried on in towns or counties, for a few days or weeks, usually during the long summer vacation, and commonly receive support from the State treasury; they have been described as normal schools with very short courses of study. This article deals only with the study of education in normal schools, and in colleges and universities; because the work done by them is typical, and sufficiently comprehensive to cover the special work done in the other institutions mentioned. It may be said, however, that in general, the normal school aims only at the professional study of education; that the college or university department of education aims at both a professional and a “liberal” study of the subject, but of a higher grade than that of the normal school; and that the university “School of Education” aims at a professional study of education only, but, at present, of the grades undertaken by both the normal schools and the university departments of education. University schools of education are of recent origin, but they are already numerous.

Normal Schools. — The systematic study of education in this country has a rather brief history. Although some beginnings had been made in the academies of New York and New England, the study of education really began in the State normal schools for the training of elementary school teachers, of which the first was founded in Lexington, Mass., in 1839. It began there with the study of methods of teaching the common branches of the elementary school curriculum, and the methods of governing or managing a class or a school. That is to say, the study of education began with the study of methods. For a long time the study of methods comprised the whole of the study of education, although it did not cover the whole work of the normal schools. Most of these schools gave, from the very beginning, and many of them still give, more attention to the study of the branches that the prospective teachers are to teach, and to extending the range of their scholarship beyond those branches, than they gave and give to the study of methods. At the same time they naturally emphasized the study of methods from the beginning, and they still do so. This was natural, and, within reasonable limits, desirable. It happened, however, that many normal schools pursued the study of methods with such exaggeration of emphasis and such minuteness of detail that they are chiefly responsible for the development of an erroneous conception — namely, that the study of education is still practically identical with the study of methods; and this conception has done much to discredit the proper study of education and to prevent its appropriate development. How narrow and inadequate this conception is has already been suggested. It is not strange that the normal schools should emphasize the study of methods. Their function is to train teachers; and to teach well and govern wisely is the first duty of the teacher. But a good teacher not merely possesses a good method; he uses that method with discriminating insight into its efficacy, and with careful adaptation to the needs of every pupil. He not only commands the technique of his art, but he understands the principles on which his art is based, and has a clear conception of the ends which his methods are to serve. Moreover, the study of methods was, too often, merely the study of a particular way of doing a particular thing — how to teach reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic and so on; or how to secure conformity to this, that or the other rule of conduct; and this was (and is still) too often done in such a way as to convey the impression to the neophyte that there is no other correct way. The tendency of such instruction is, of course, to mechanize and not to vitalize instruction. In the hands of the less capable the study of education becomes under such circumstances the inculcation of a mere routine; individual initiative and self-criticism are suppressed or discouraged. In the hands of the more capable the result is not so bad; but even in their hands the study of methods is elevated into an importance that enables it to obscure other fundamental aspects of the study of education and of the right training of teachers. Instruction in methods did, however, develop systematic teaching where before there had been loose or haphazard procedure. By and large, the teachers trained in the normal schools proved their superiority over their untrained predecessors and contemporaries. The normal school study of education, in spite of its narrowness, did bear good fruit. But the results were still unsatisfactory. The means and methods of education were studied, but the tendency to use them blindly and mechanically was too obvious to be overlooked. The study of education, thus far, had not penetrated to the root of the matter.

The conventional scheme of education as expressed in existing programs (“courses”) of study, and equally conventional methods of teaching and discipline, had been accepted without critical analysis of what it was all for, and to what extent the means and methods employed were adapted to the nature of the children to be taught and to the demands of modern life. Accordingly, it began to be clear that the study of education must mean more than the study of methods — the devices of teaching and governing. It was perceived that the mere acquisition of these devices often failed to impart life and purpose to the teacher's work. Gradually it was perceived that what was lacking in the study of education was the assimilation of guiding principles which should forever prevent the teacher from conceiving his work as a mere routine, but should enable him to conceive it throughout as a rationalized endeavor. It was natural that these guiding principles should be sought, first of all, in psychology, which, as the science of mind, should reveal the process of learning; and by implication should therefore give an insight into the process of teaching. “As we learn, so must we teach.” Moreover, the Prussian normal schools, which had served as models for our own, had long incorporated the study of psychology into their programs of study, and this feature of their programs, which, to be sure, had also found its way into our own but had been without special significance, was now seized upon as the chief source of the guiding principles we were seeking. This was about 1885. Before that time psychology or “mental philosophy” had been pursued in our normal schools as an independent study without vital relation to the study of education. Now, however, this relation was perceived, and an extraordinary devotion to psychology as the key to all educational problems was the result. Before long, also, certain phases of psychology or particular psychological theories, notably the Herbartain theory of “apperception” and the derived theories of the “concentration” or “correlation” of studies, were heralded as the very gospel of educational salvation. There is truth in the theory of apperception and of the correlation of studies; but these theories were pursued and applied for a time with such extravagant and misguided enthusiasm, particularly in the Middle West, that they became “fads”; and many sins were committed in their names by large numbers of well-meaning but not well-informed teachers and other students of education. Naturally, also, educational charlatans saw their opportunity in this conspicuous popularity of psychology, and were not slow to grasp a profit from it by the sale of their wares in the form of lectures and books; and much useless or misleading talk and trivial and unscientific psychological literature was abroad in the land.

The most extravagant development of the study of psychology, by students of education was “child study” which swept the country over from border to border some years ago. Parents, teachers or other students of education were discredited unless they endeavored themselves to make some contribution to the psychology of childhood, and these contributions were actually attempted by teachers of all grades and by other persons of all degrees of intelligence. This excitement was, however, short-lived — it lasted 10 years at most. This was because a large part of the data which had been so enthusiastically collected, together with most of the “scientific” conclusions to which it was alleged they pointed, were held in slight esteem by the real psychologists. Such a result was inevitable. The psychology of childhood can be developed as a science only by persons trained for that purpose, just as physical science can be developed only by trained scientists. It was then seen that the chief advantage to be derived from the study of children by untrained observers was the effect on the observers themselves. Not to extend the boundaries of the science of psychology, but to interest the observers in children, to enable them to get into relation with child-life — that is the real value of child-study for most persons. And wherever this conception of its value prevails the study of children is to-day rendering good service to students of education. The acute stage of extravagant devotion to psychology as a part of the study of education is now happily past; and only good can be expected of the saner pursuit of it, which is fast becoming the rule.

From the foregoing it is already clear that far more was expected of psychology than could be realized. But more needs to be said on this point. Psychology is even yet in its formative stage as a natural science, and 30 years ago was just emerging from its thralldom to metaphysics. It was, however, assumed to be a perfected science — a complete and accurate account of mental phenomena and their interdependence; and hence the extravagant expectations entertained of its value in giving insight into educational problems and a command over teaching processes. These expectations could not be realized; for, as has just been said, psychology is still a formative science and cannot therefore guarantee the complete insight into mental life — especially the mental life of children, which it was believed to yield; and even if it were to-day all that it was then thought to be — a perfected science of mental life, and particularly of mental development — the acquisition of that science would not necessarily ensure technical skill on the part of the teacher. Insight and the practical application of insight are two very different things. Nevertheless, the widespread devotion to the study of psychology in normal schools and by teachers was a great gain to the study of education. It established the fact once for all that methods of teaching and governing have a rational basis in the constitution of human nature, and that it is the duty of the student of education and the teacher to ascertain what this basis is as nearly as he can. The study of education in normal schools had now progressed beyond the study of methods as mere devices to a study of these devices as based on the nature of the minds subjected to them. That is to say, the study of education had gradually come to include “educational psychology,” and in particular the psychology of childhood and adolescence.

Meanwhile, again following the lead of the Prussian normal schools, light for the path of the student of education was also sought in the records of the past. The history of education was appealed to for guidance in solving contemporary problems of teaching and governing. It was only natural that a narrow conception of the significance of the history of education should have been entertained, because the study of education itself was still quite generally interpreted as the study of methods. Naturally, therefore, educational biography and “educational classics” or monographs setting forth the educational theories of individuals of the past — both usually without reference to their social setting in the general history of their time — constituted nearly all that was studied as the history of education. In spite of this narrow interpretation of the history of education the study of that subject, like the study of psychology, was a great gain to the study of education. The recognition of the kinship of contemporary education with that of the past necessarily broadened and dignified the conception generally entertained of the meaning of education itself and naturally enhanced the value of the study of that subject. For, although the history of education was at first inadequately conceived and taught, it was inevitable that it should ere long be recognized at its true value, namely, as a part of general history; and hence that the student of education should come to realize that in studying the history of education he was studying nothing less than the history of culture — of the training of each generation to assume its share in preserving, improving and transmitting to the oncoming generation the resources of our civilization, and in so doing actively to promote the progressive solution of its problems. This true conception of the history of education is, however, of very recent development. Although some of the normal schools have contributed to its development, many of them still adhere to the older conception, and it has remained for colleges and universities to give form and substance to the new conception and to disseminate it.

Meanwhile, also the study of education was gradually extended to include an examination into the adequacy and effectiveness of contemporary schools and studies as a means of promoting the normal development of each individual as an individual and also as a means of adapting him to the civilization of his time — the twofold aim of all general education; and this questioning, together with the formulation of the more or less satisfactory replies to it, sometimes alone but more commonly closely associated with educational psychology, constitute what is now often called “Science of Education,” “Philosophy of Education,” or more appropriately “Educational Theory” or “General Principles of Education.” In the light of the foregoing description of the historical development of the study of education in normal schools the present scope and aims of that study in those schools may be briefly summarized as follows:

It includes (1) Theory of Education or General Principles of Education, sometimes called “Science of Education” or “Philosophy of Education,” pursued as a means of awakening interest in and developing insight into the general problems of education (often not distinct nor separable from (4) below); (2) Methods; (3) Kindergarten Theory and Practice; (4) Psychology and the Study of Children, pursued as a source of information about the development of mental life and the processes of learning and as a rational basis for methods of teaching and discipline — that is, psychology pursued as a science on which the art of teaching and managing children might be based and the study of children pursued chiefly as a means of developing a comprehending and sympathetic attitude toward children on the part of future teachers; (5) The Study of Teaching by observation and practice in “model schools” or “training schools”; (6) School Organization and Management, chiefly internal organization and class management; (7) The History of Education, usually pursued as a source of suggestions for planning contemporary studies and methods of teaching and management and, to a limited extent also, as a means of developing a broader professional outlook over and better professional insight into educational problems as problems of social evolution; (8) School Hygiene; (9) School Laws as a source of practical information concerning the teachers' legal rights, privileges and duties.

As was pointed out above the work of normal schools is not confined to the study of education; but so far as that study itself is concerned the foregoing enumeration covers the ground, although not all of it is necessarily found in all normal schools. The foregoing description also reveals the aim of the study of education in normal schools. That aim is primarily the technical preparation of the classroom teacher. Finally, it should be said that many normal schools are far inferior to others in the adequacy with which they conceive the study of education and in the thoroughness with which that study is carried on.

Colleges and Universities. — Great as the services are which the normal schools rendered it gradually became clear that they were alone unable to cope with the rapidly growing need of a more comprehensive as well as a more intensive study of education than they could supply. Some time before the end of the 19th century the normal schools had made clear the great distinction between a trained and an untrained teacher, as was pointed out above; and they had, accordingly, made good progress in the gradual transformation (still going on) of the calling of the elementary teacher from a mere routine into a profession. But the increase of the native population and the growth of cities, the enormous and steadily increasing influx of foreign immigrants, the geographical expansion and the much more important and very great commercial and industrial development of the country have been followed by our huge modern schools, our varied and complex programs of studies, our immense city scnool systems; and hence a host of new educational problems have come into the field, — problems with which the mere classroom teacher of limited academic training and narrow, even if thorough, technical training, is manifestly unable to cope satisfactorily. We have, fortunately, many efficient grammar school principals and superintendents to-day who have had only a normal school training; but in no case are they efficient because their training was originally limited, but in spite of that fact. Moreover, the general public, particularly the educated and the reading public, now take an interest in educational problems heretofore unknown, and this interest is increasing daily. This interest demands satisfaction and seeks educational leaders among the teaching profession as well as good classroom teachers. At the same time it had long been apparent that many college-bred men of excellent scholarship were poor teachers. The college offered them no opportunity to learn how to teach. The problem was to secure, in addition to adequate scholarship, appropriate insight into education and technical skill in teaching. This the college graduate could not and cannot ordinarily secure in the normal school — first, because the normal school was and is naturally and properly concerned chiefly with the training of teachers for elementary schools and, therefore, has generally neither the teaching force nor the equipment to deal separately with college graduates who usually seek preparation to teach in secondary not elementary schools; and second, because it was not and cannot be profitable in most cases to teach in the same classes college graduates and normal school students. The college-bred students are too far ahead of the normal school students in maturity and scholarship to make a satisfactory combination class. For similar reasons the normal schools are generally unable to provide adequate opportunities for teachers already in service who seek preparation for work as principals or superintendents of schools. Out of these considerations arose the university department of education which has undertaken to provide the college graduate with the opportunities he needs for the study of education — whether as a neophyte he is about to begin his professional career as a classroom teacher, or whether as an experienced teacher be returns to the university for the study of his profession under direction with a view to becoming a principal or a superintendent; or whether as an interested layman be seeks enlightenment as to the meaning of education and the means and methods of organizing and directing it as a branch of State or municipal affairs.

The history of the study of education in the colleges and universities of the country is even more brief than the history of that study in the normal schools, for it does not really begin until 1879, when the University of Michigan founded a chair of “the science and the art of teaching” of co-ordinate rank with other chairs or departments. Education before that time (from about 1850) had been studied in “normal departments” established at a number of colleges and universities (more commonly of the Middle West than elsewhere), in which the study of education did not differ materially from that pursued in the normal schools. Such a normal department, for example, existed at Brown University from 1851 to 1854. It was discontinued “in consequence of the establishment in Providence of the Rhode Island Normal School,” so says the university catalogue for 1854-55. Another example was the normal department of the University of Iowa, which was, at first (1855), a department of the preparatory school of the university. It had a varied career and was gradually transformed into the present “School of Education” of the university. It exemplifies a not uncommon process of development of these “normal departments” into the university Departments of Education or Schools of Education or “Teachers Colleges” of to-day.

Not infrequently the courses in education instead of being grouped in a department or school of education or teachers college were, and are still, associated with and made a part of the department of psychology or philosophy, usually to the disadvantage of the study of education. This affiliation followed the lead of the German universities and dates from the time — not far back — when “pedagogy” rather than education was the subject studied. It has been found possible, however, in only a few college or university departments of education to solve the problem of technical training for neophytes. Teachers of experience and other persons who resort to the university to study the history and theory of education and the organization and administration of school systems find the instruction of any good professor of education decidedly profitable. But beginners who need to learn how to teach under direction usually fail to get what they most need — the laboratory work of actual teaching and management under the usual conditions that prevail in the classroom. A few college and university departments of education, like the department at Harvard University, have provided such opportunities from almost the very beginning; but, except in some of the larger urban universities, it has generally been found impracticable. But the university department or chair of education has accomplished and is accomplishing a most important task, quite apart from what it may or may not accomplish in the training of young teachers, or in the training of principals or superintendents. It has made education in all its phases a university study. Apathetic and even hostile faculties have slowly yielded the false position that they once held, namely, that among all the fields of human thought and activity education is the only one it is not profitable to study; and this is a great gain. The gradual abandonment of false views concerning the study of education by members of the faculties of our higher institutions has naturally been followed by similar progress on the part of the students. To-day university courses in education are attended by an increasing number of future lawyers, doctors and business men who do not care for the technical courses pursued by future teachers or school officers, but who wish to study the history, theory and, to some extent, the organization of education, just as they study the history and theory of economics — that is, as a part of the proper equipment of a liberally educated man. The university department of education has, therefore, accomplished several important things. It has, at its worst, given college-bred teachers an insight into their future profession which they formerly could not get at all; that is, it has helped to determine a professional attitude and temper of mind of great importance for immediate efficiency and steady professional growth; and, at its best, it has done and is still doing this, and provides, also, actual laboratory work for the young teacher — classroom teaching under direction amid normal surroundings, over a sufficiently long period of time; and it provides suitable training for principals and superintendents of schools on the basis of good instruction and a comparative study, under direction, of schools and school systems in actual operation; and, finally, it has established the study of education among the branches of a liberal education. At the present time more than half of the colleges and universities of the country make more or less provision for the study of education, and many more are preparing to do so. But the development of this study has naturally been more rapid in the State universities than elsewhere, save in the few cases noted above, that is, in the universities that have developed "Schools of Education" of co-ordinate rank with their other professional schools. The scope and general aims of the college or university study of education, as now carried on, may be summarized as follows: (1) To study education as an important function of society as well as of individuals, and hence of interest to all university students whether they intend to become teachers or not. (2) To offer to university students who look forward to teaching the necessary technical training for their vocation; and to teachers already in service, an opportunity to study their profession under direction. (3) To offer to university students who have already had experience as teachers, and to all teachers of suitable age and attainments, appropriate training for future activity as principals or superintendents of schools. (4) To offer opportunities to advanced students for research in me field of education.

While the courses of study offered for the realization of these aims vary greatly, they may be briefly described as courses in: (1) Educational Theory or General Principles of Education, sometimes called “Philosophy of Education,” or “Science of Education.” The specific aim of these courses is to enable the student to gain a just conception of the scope and meaning of education and to make a critical examination of such generally accepted educational principles as will serve to guide him in his further study of educational questions. (2) Educational Psychology and Child Study. While this subject could be appropriately regarded as a subdivision of the preceding topic, it is usually offered in separate courses, the special aim of which does not differ materially — although the method of treatment does — from similar courses in normal schools. The work done in such courses in colleges and universities is usually more scientific and thorough than in the corresponding normal school courses. (3) General principles of method and special methods of teaching the several school studies, without and with practice teaching, particularly the methods of teaching secondary school rather than elementary school studies. The instruction in the courses in special methods is sometimes given by instructors belonging to the department of education, but often by specialists chosen from other departments of the college or university. (4) History of education studied as history. The purpose is to trace the historical development of modern schools and universities, with especial reference to their ideals, studies, modes of teaching and organization; together with the effect of economic, political, social and religious ideals on the spirit and direction of education; and the influence upon school methods and curricula of the general progress of the arts and sciences. Such a course should therefore give the student a view of the subject in its relation to the history of civilization, as well as a historical basis for sound criticism of the more important elements of modern schools and school systems. (5) The educational importance of play and recreation. (6) Education in practical arts for boys and for girls. (7) The education of exceptional (anæmic or tubercular, crippled, deaf, blind, truant and delinquent, mentally defective) children. (8) Vocational (industrial, commercial, agricultural) education. (9) The vastly important allied subject of vocational and educational guidance for school and college youth and for young people already at work. (10) Organization and management of schools and school systems. The purpose of courses covering this last subject is to study both the internal organization and management of schools and school systems with special reference to the duties of principals and superintendents within a given school or school system, and also the organization and management of education as a branch of State and municipal affairs, at home and abroad. Accordingly, they deal with the appointment or election, organization, powers and duties of State and city boards of education; the powers, duties and opportunities of superintendents, principals and teachers in cities and towns; the work of elementary and secondary schools, including the construction of programs (“courses”) of study; and, in general, everything pertaining to the organization and efficient administration of our vast, complex and costly provision for public education; and sometimes also a similar study of foreign schools and school systems. Such courses sometimes also cover the organization and management and the work of private and endowed schools. (11) School hygiene; the hygiene of school buildings and the hygiene of the pupils. (12) Seminary courses or research courses. Such courses offer opportunities to the most advanced students for prolonged study of particular educational questions. As the whole field of educational theory and practice abounds in unsolved problems and vast areas in the history of education are as yet untouched, it is easy to see how important such courses are. Not all of these courses are found in every college or university department of education, hut they are all found in some of them; and in the university schools of education, to which reference has been made, all these courses are offered and elaborated with a minuteness of differentiation that should eventually promote a very thorough study of the topics involved.

Progress in the study of education has been greatly facilitated in recent years by the rapid growth of a considerable body of good educacational literature both in books and periodicals is still common, a large number of good books have been published in recent years and several periodicals have appeared worthy of a place beside the best educational literature that has been produced anywhere.

In addition to the study of education already described, mention should be made of the study of education carried on by educational associations. The National Educational Association is not only a vast forum for the discussion of educational questions, but since 1893 it has stimulated and subsidized educational research through committees appointed to report on selected problems. Several of the reports submitted by these committees have been of great value and more may be expected in the future. The State teachers' associations and other local associations throughout the country also occasionally carry on educational investigations of more than local significance. Mention must also be made of the studies in education now undertaken by associations of laymen and by some of the non-professional magazines.

Recent and very important developments in the study of education may be described as statistical and experimental studies of educational procedure and approximately scientific studies (quantitative measurements) of educational results. The purpose of these studies is to obtain objective standards whereby contemporary educational procedure can be directed and results measured with an accuracy approximating the direction and measurement of results in the natural sciences; and thereby to confirm or refute (as the case may be) educational opinion. Such standards, when attained, constitute unassailable guidance for educational practice, which, for the most part, we now lack. The most promising standards thus far attained are in the field of elementary education — arithmetic (computation with whole numbers), penmanship, spelling and reading. The study of education in the past has been based almost wholly on individual experience, and especially on the opinions of prominent individuals — laymen and teachers. Such individual experience and opinion will always be worth studying, but the conviction that scientific research in education is essential to satisfactory progress, which has been slowly forming during the past decade, is now firmly established in the professional mind; and the statistical and experimental studies and the measurement of educational results above referred to are the result. The literature of this important development in the study of education is growing rapidly. Apart from books, such studies are energetically promoted by several contemporary periodicals and by researches carried on by colleges and university departments and schools of education, working independently, but often in co-operation with progressive supervisory officers and teachers in neighboring school systems. The conviction that such studies are essential to progress in education has also led to the establishment of departments of research in about a dozen of the larger school systems of the United States. Such departments serve the same purpose in school activities that research departments and departments of design serve in industry and commerce. That they do serve such purposes, several of them have already proved.

Many important studies of entire school systems, called school surveys, have been made by specialists usually not connected with the systems studied on the invitation of State, city and rural school authorities. The reports of these surveys, now numerous, constitute a vast mine of information for all students of education; indeed, the student of education in the United States will find no more important body of educational literature than is embodied in those reports.

Paul H. Hanus,
Professor of Education, Harvard University.