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LOCAL TEACHERS' MEETINGS
Meetings of the teachers of the diocese of Detroit were held on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, July 6 and 7, at 2:30 p. m. The program for these meetings was arranged by Rev. R. D. Slevin, S. J. All the parish school teachers attending the convention were present, and deep interest was shown in the papers and the discussions. The papers were written by Sisters of the Detroit parish schools and by a Brother from New York, but were read by persons appointed by the Chairman. The meetings were held in College Hall, Detroit College.
A. P. TERNES,
THE ESSENTIAL BRANCHES OF ELEMENTARY
A SISTER OF CHARITY.
Since elementary schools are the widespread gardens in which are nurtured the great majority of our citizens, very great is the importance of finding therein all that will develop them physically, mentally and morally.
For a long period the public schools of our country received unlimited praise not only for their perfect system, but likewise for their well arranged curriculum. It was surprising how even religious and sacerdotal critics argued that the public schools must be far better than the Catholic schools since they had greater material resources, numerous teachers, a generous supply of money, a more complete outfit and commodious school buildings. There was no allowance made for the enlightenment of the child's mind by grace or for the support given to the Catholic teachers by Him who said, "I shall be with you all days, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail." Experience and competitive examinations have shown that the parochial schools everywhere have produced pupils able in every way to cope with those graduated from the better equipped halls of learning. At the present time the curriculum of studies in the public schools is in a very unsettled condition and vexatious criticism has broken out all over the country to such an extent as to force the prediction that an inevitable evolution in the course of study will be the result. There is a cry that the school training is not equal to the needs of the time. Business men complain that neither the college-bred young man nor the boy of fourteen is capable of doing what it is reasonable to expect of him. The colleges are blamed for thrusting unnecessary work upon the secondary schools by making their requirements such as to increase the
number of studies. Bookkeeping, typewriting, physiology, algebra, geometry and Latin have been introduced into the elementary schools, and the overcrowded curriculum has produced a lack of efficiency in the "three R's."
The elimination of what is not essential, with a thoroughness of drill in the necessary branches, is appealing to educators as the one suitable course for preparatory schools. Drill went out of fashion for a time and the so-called development, the opposite extreme of old style rote drill, became the ideal. The cultivation of the memory dropped into disuse, and whatever emphasized the storing of the mind with useful information was deemed ridiculous. The educational pendulum has swung back and now urges the methods of the good old days when children learned something, could repeat something, and had facts stored and available for use. The business world demands accuracy and appreciates the value of thoroughness. The overcrowding of the course of study hinders the development of any mental power or ability to do continuous, independent work. A multiplicity of subjects shortens the study period and weakens the child's attention and energy, while often an overcrowded schoolroom adds its evils to those already mentioned.
The essentials of the little log schoolhouse, now regarded with so much reverence, were confined to the "three R's." Later, manual training, home and civic economics with domestic industries came knocking for admission. American restlessness did. not stop here, but invited music, drawing, nature study, physical culture and the various elementary sciences, arguing that a variety of studies would produce mental power, poise and alertness. The consternation of the educational world has been aroused by the announcement of several public school superintendents, among them Mrs. Ella Flagg Young, of Chicago, who declares there are too many fads, that "children should be well grounded in a few things rather than have a smattering of so many." To the "fads and frills" is attributed the blame by parents and business men that eighth grade pupils are not able to write legibly, read intelligently, figure accurately or speak English correctly. Others assert that the pupils of the present day are not inferior to those of a half century ago, but appear
less efficient on account of the increasing demands of the social and industrial world.
A series of noteworthy school reports, recently issued from the office of the superintendent of schools of Cleveland, Ohio, gives the information that the non-essential branches have not been allowed to encroach upon the essentials, that their curriculum is not overburdened. Certain examinations given a half century ago were repeated in 1905 and again in 1909, and these show that the pupils did not spell more correctly, write better, or show greater knowledge of arithmetic in the earlier days than at present. The syllabus of studies to be adopted in the New York elementary schools after the coming year will prove interesting, but whether it will influence the parochial schools we cannot judge. Fads never developed favorably in the parochial schools, which have kept the even tenor of their way and produced great results against many odds, for besides the ordinary elementary branches of the public schools the parish school curriculum has Christian Doctrine, Bible history and Church history.* Every year a class is prepared for first holy Communion, and frequently the instructions are given during class hours. Confirmation, the ceremonies of Holy Week, Forty Hours, Sacred Heart and May Devotions, Corpus Christi and other processions, all demand rightfully their share of time, leaving no hours for the nonessentials.
Since holy Mother Church demands such a magnificent standard in the religious training of the young, Christian Doctrine is unquestionably the essential branch of the parochial school curriculum and is responsible for our splendid system of parish schools, in which many talented men and women are devoting their lives and putting forth every endeavor to raise them to a position of dignity and strength. A one-sided education is not sufficient for Catholic youth. By a proper training of the intellect, the imagination, the will, pupils learn that the duties of reli- • gion are not insupportable burdens, but glorious privileges; that a Christian education is of the utmost importance; that a knowl
For remunerative purposes likewise there is generally a class in music. and the lessons are given and much of the practicing done during the study period.
edge of God and His laws, with childlike obedience to His commands, will make them superior to all earthly considerations and proof against every obstacle and temptation. They will acquire that elevation of soul which makes them enjoy, even in this life, the heavenly treasures and gives them a foretaste of the Beatific Vision, the reward of their fidelity to the threefold obligation imposed by their Creator-to know God, to love Him and to serve Him.
Next to religion the most important subject is reading, for without it there can be no real study. It opens every avenue of knowledge, introduces the pupil to good literature and makes him self-reliant. It admits him to a vast world of thought and imagination and to the companionship of the best and greatest minds. A correct habit of reading tends to the formation of character as well as to intellectual development. It is the foundation of self-education. "It is a stimulus to action, since the end. of life is to do rather than to think. The reader becomes a student of all times and a spectator of all events."
Writing needs careful and scientific instruction. It is not merely a mechanical exercise; it brings under control of the will both the physical and intellectual powers of the pupil. It trains the hand, cultivates taste and the powers of observation, strengthens the will and trains the eye to accuracy of form. With diligent practice a clear, legible handwriting may be acquired, and it is always a delight to the eye.
Spelling is the most vulnerable point of attack in the modern school. The incorrect speller is stigmatized as illiterate, unrefined and uncultivated. Progressive schools banished the spelling book a few years ago, and thought to teach orthography from history, geography or reader. "Teach the pupil to spell the words he needs to use" was their doctrine, which sounded well in theory but proved a failure when reduced to practice. Spelling requires systematic, carefully planned instruction. The commercial world to-day, with its vast army of bookkeepers, stenographers, accountants and correspondence clerks asks of the schools to prepare pupils for life in the most useful and practical sense by insisting on correct spelling.