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not be done, as long as certain obstacles are there to impede the work. I believe I am well within the scope of my subject, if I point out a few of the chief obstacles that will interfere, more or less, with a successful completion of an elementary education in six years.
The time allotment must be considered as one of the essential factors in a discussion of our problem. The content of a program must depend upon the amount of time we may devote to the various branches. It is evident that in two hundred days of regular attendance, more work can be done than with an actual attendance of only 175 or 180 days. To base the content of the program on a supposed attendance of 200 days when there are only 180 working days at the disposal of the teacher, would mean an unfinished program at the end of every school year. According to the Bureau of Education at Washington, the average number of registered daily sessions in the United States is 187, while the average annual attendance for each pupil is only 140. In large city schools it may be more, in country schools, less. For our Catholic schools, I would say that 185 days would be nearer the mark. A basis of 180 school days of five teaching hours each, a total of nine hundred hours, would be a safe one to begin with. As a matter of fact, very few parochial school teachers ever have these nine hundred hours at their disposal. A number of unavoidable and, sad to say, avoidable disturbances are so periodical in their occurrence, that these 180 days might fairly be cut down to 160 days of effective teaching in many schools.
Beyond any doubt, the greatest cause of loss of time in our educational work is the preparation for entertainments as it is carried out in many schools either for commencements or for purely financial purposes, especially for entertainments in which to secure a record attendance of parents and relations, every class, and when possible, every child in the class must appear on the stage, regardless alike of the histrionic incapacity of teacher and pupils for such work. I feel convinced that if diocesan school boards would get at actual statistics of the loss of time involved in the preparation of entertainments, every endeavor would be
made to suppress them entirely, where possible, and reduce them to a minimum where they must remain as necessary evils.
Another obstacle is lack of economy in our pedagogical practices. A very interesting and valuable paper could be written on "Economy in Pedagogy." The useless labor of young teachers is often too painfully evident. As instances of such waste, I would cite the disregard of the correlation of studies, involving a loss of the mutual aid which studies may be made to bring one another. Then there is a lack of distinction in the application of methods. Exact studies depending upon a syllogistic process, experimental studies depending upon the powers of observation and the ability to establish relations between cause and effect, and studies depending upon a nice taste and a correct judgment in the application of the established canons of art, all receive a uniform treatment, depending upon the intellectual bias of the teacher. An intelligent application of definite methods recognized as pedagogically the best adapted to the teaching of each branch, would enable the teacher to save much time and energy.
Another obstacle is in the use of what I will call the scaffold work of education for want of a better term. One method is to devote much of the class hour to exercises that are intended solely for the discipline of the mind. The matter used in these exercises is not expected to be retained by the pupil, but is to be discarded when the end is attained. This has always seemed to me to be a waste of time and energy. Another and a more economic plan is to do this disciplining with material that need not be thrown aside, but may be worked into the structure of our educational edifice. Note the scaffolding used in the erection of a frame building. It forms no part of the building. It must be carted away after having served its purpose. Note on the other side, a building in which the frame work is of structural iron. Every beam as it is swung into place becomes a part of the structure, strengthening it, serving as a scaffold and support for more to follow. The flimsy wood scaffold is thrown together in short order and with little skill. The structural iron work demands careful study by skillful engineers. It is a slower process in the planning and preparation of material, but look how much more
effective after completion. Pity it is that we have not more structural iron work in our pedagogical methods.
I have not dwelt upon the modifications that must be made in the programs of the seventh and eighth grades, should the plan be carried out, of limiting elementary studies to the first six grades, and yet it seems to me the greatest difficulty in the revision will be the readjustment of the programs for these two classes. Before this can be done properly, answers will have to be found to the following and other questions: Should any attempt be made to have the secondary work of our seventh and eighth grades conform with similar work in the public schools? If so, to what extent should this conformity be carried? Should one teacher take all the branches of a class as in the elementary grades, or should a course system be inaugurated which would allow special teachers to take certain branches in both grades? Should there continue to be an obligatory program in a number of studies in these classes with a privilege of choice for certain other branches, or should there be distinct sections for science, commerce and the classics? Should there be favored the grouping of sections at different centers? For instance, all the science students of several parishes to attend at one parish center. Should the seventh and eighth grades be attached to a central high school for the purposes of better administration and control of secondary work, where such a plan becomes feasible? How and by whom will the Latin feature of this department be handled, etc., etc.?
It will be noticed that some of these questions are distinctly of an administrative nature and as such will depend on the local authorities for a satisfactory answer. Others are of a pedagogical nature, and will depend on special conditions rather than on the authorities for a solution. None of them offer difficulties which could not be met by the united efforts of our best schoolmen. Let us hope that such concerted action will soon be a matter for record in the history of Catholic education in the United States.
PROF. WILLIAM J. MCAULIFFE, M. A., Cathedral College, New York, N. Y.: To my mind the question resolves itself in its ultimate analysis to our conception of the scope of the elementary school. If it is to be taken as the end of all formal education, at least for the vast majority, as was the conception of the schoolmen in the early days of our educational movement, then eight years is none too little time to spend upon it. If it is to be but a preparation for higher educational work, either classical, as is the ideal of to-day to a large extent in our high schools; or manual, i. e., technical, which will soon be the ideal in this country, then six years is quite sufficient time to spend upon the purely elementary education.
At the present time our educational system in America is in a chaotic condition. Each branch is shifting the burden of the waste of time. Colleges are raising standards, so are high schools, with the result that more and more work is being put upon the elementary school, work which, for the most part, it was never intended to do. These increased requirements on the part of the college and university are also compelling our students to spend more time than is necessary upon the acquiring of the fundamental education essential to their vocation in life.
This waste of time is not confined to the elementary school alone, but it is general throughout the whole structure from turret to foundation-stone. Universities are doing collegiate work, and colleges are doing university and high school work; the high schools are intruding upon the elementary school, which in turn is usurping the work of the high school. The student is the sufferer from all this waste, often to the extent of four years on the whole course from 1-A to the university degree. Surely something is wrong when we realize that with all the excess time he spends he acquires an education no better, if not inferior, to the education acquired on the continent of Europe, which education is acquired in much less time.
There is a remedy for this condition of affairs, and it lies in a thorough readjustment of our ideas on the province of the elementary school, high school, college and university. We must provide in our scheme of education not only for the child who wishes to pursue its studies to their fulfillment in the university or collegiate degree, but also for the child who cannot, who must become a breadwinner at fourteen or before, and this is precisely what we are not doing at the present time, at least, as well as we might. Are the thousands who apply for work certificates in the lower grades in city schools, or who leave the country schools before graduation, as well educated for their position in life, morally and intellectually, as we would wish? Witness the thousands who leave the high schools in the first and second years of their course. Can we say that they are as well educated as it is possible for them to be in ten years' time, especially when we view the utter waste of time enforced upon them in their course? So grave has this question become that throughout the length and breadth of the country experiments are being carried on to shorten the time of the
elementary course. Some have reduced the course to seven years; some, in the hope of doing the greatest good to the greatest number, have lengthened the course to nine years. But statistics show us that whether the course be seven, eight or nine years the average age at its completion is the same. If we pause for a moment we must realize that this is mere logic, for a certain amount of work must be done in preparation for entrance into high school. In the seven year course the bright pupils finish on time, but the average and dull pupils lag behind by failing to complete some of the grades in the required time. In the nine year course the average and bright pupils finish early by completing the grades in less than the allotted time. So whether you lengthen or shorten the elementary course you are no better off than when you began if you confine your efforts to the elementary school alone.
The attempt to introduce into the elementary school secondary studies has not been a success, it has not shortened though it has lent variety to the course. As regards its value there is also grave doubt. If the work has been well done, it makes less work for the pupil in high school; if it is poorly done, it makes teaching harder, for the teacher must eradicate false notions and the pupil must unlearn them, a tedious and unprofitable task for both. The other alternative of incorporating the last two years of the elementary school into the high school has been fairly successful and is a step in the right direction, but it does not lessen the time. So no matter which way we turn we find ourselves facing a blank wall. If we are to save time we must apply the shortening process to the entire scheme. This is best done by following the continental system, which effects its greatest saving through the peculiar construction of the secondary school. Under this system the elementary school is about six years.
Pupils who have no intention of entering and who really cannot afford the secondary education continue in the elementary school and have an eight year course. Those who wish to go on leave the elementary school at the first Communion age, say eleven or twelve years, and enter the secondary school, where they follow a course of study quite different from the elementary school. A foreign language, either ancient or modern, is begun at once and the minor studies of the elementary school continued. In the second year (7 A and B) general history and algebra are begun and the common branches are continued, but are made not so important. The course continues for eight or nine years and embraces the four upper elementary grades, the whole high school and the first and second collegiate. The student is ready to enter the university or technical school, which is regarded as university work. As for the time saved, under our system graduation from the elementary school is at fourteen or fifteen years; from high school, eighteen or nineteen; college, twenty-two to twenty-three; university, twenty-six to twenty-seven. Under the continental system the elementary school is left at eleven or twelve years, secondary school nineteen to twenty, university twenty-three to twenty-four. The principal points.