Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/593

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589
TRAINING COLLEGE TEACHERS

—perhaps too well. The collegiate post is approached through the doctorate. In the later stages of this way, he is sometimes allowed to correct examination papers, lead quizes, and, if his professors are kind, even give a course of lectures. But usually this last boon is reserved for the days of assistantship, when, left to his own resources, he takes charge of a brawling roomful of sophomores. Of pedagogy knowing only the name, he sets about instructing by the method of trial and error; and the result is mostly trials and errors. The holy law of individualism locks the door against the professor who might be tempted to stroll into the beginner's class-room and help him along. But, if he were only left alone at his teaching, he might hope to pick up practical wisdom in a few years. He has not even that good fortune, though. If not by word, then by attitude, his colleagues often discourage him from becoming a "mere teacher." There is earnest in the old jest: "A college would be a fine place, but for the students." Our young instructor sees his seniors' names at the head of articles in his technical journals and they spell: "Go thou and do likewise!" At department conferences, problems of economy and research are broached, but beyond the broader question of schedules, text-books, periods and general manner of treatment, teaching is untouched: Is it because even the professor thinks his colleague nascitur non fit, and so dares not advise him for fear of insinuating that he is not fit? Be that as it may; pedagogy is suppressed as by a. censor and investigation exalted until the university habit is set in grooves too deep to leave. And the freshman is left a foundling in inhospitable or palsied hands.

The results of this familiar unbalance are so grotesque that the writer, for one, would not believe them save on the evidence of his own eyes and ears. One instructor, whose researches have been a credit to his college, makes his freshmen learn the French for all parts of a full-rigged ship—and this, too, after he has taught several years. A scientist, with an important investigation half finished, turns his undergraduates into laboratory assistants; and, when confronted by a complainant committee, is honestly thunderstruck to hear that nobody is getting anything out of his courses. A mathematician of international repute lectures to his beginners on the great controversies of the geometers since Descartes. And a student assures me that, in the second semester of freshman German, he was set to translating "Macbeth" into the tongue of Goethe.

Let us not berate anybody for such absurdities, least of all the teachers themselves. Their pedagogical ignorance is due neither to slovenliness nor to neglect, but is a more or less inevitable incident in the great turmoil through which all our educational ideals, methods and means have been and still are passing. The hour calls less loudly for criticism than for a remedy. And the sky has cleared enough to