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HARVARD MONTHLY. .
THE STUDY OF EDUCATION AND THE PROFESSIONAL
TRAINING OF COLLEGE-BRED TEACHERS.
Education, like every other important human interest, may be studied advantageously, to some extent, by every man who aspires to general cultivation. The history of Education is an important part of the history of civilization; the general principles of Education determine contemporary educational practice in schools and colleges, whether the public or teachers and school officers adhere consciously to those principles, or not; and the organization and administration of schools and school systems are important phases of state and municipal affairs.
Surely the story of the gradual evolution of educational needs in successive stages of the world's history, of the formulation and exposition of those needs in educational classics, and of the schools and universities that arose to meet those needs--in short, the story of the education that humanity has devised in the course of, say, twenty-five centuries (to take only the most important part of the story), and of the effect of this education on civil, political and religious development--surely this story may well form a part of the equipment of a "liberally educated" man, whatever his future calling may be. So, too, to gain some knowledge of the scope and meaning of schools and studies, of the aims and methods of contemporary educational practice; to gain a critical insight into contemporary educational needs through a serious study of the development of the individual on the one hand and of contemporary social conditions on the other, and hence a just estimate of the value of our vast, diversified and costly provision for the education of the present generation of children and youth—this is worth some time and effort on the part of every university student, whether he becomes a teacher or not. And, finally, to learn how states and cities seek to secure good schools for their children; to become aware of the dangers that constantly menace the efficiency of the schools because of faulty organization and unwise administration; to study the successes and the failures of cities in ridding themselves of bad school systems, and the nature and working of the best systems yet devised -surely such study may well attract a college-bred man whose influence in municipal affairs and especially in educational affairs is certain to be important by and by. But if some study of Education in its several aspects is advantageous to every cultivated man, is it not clear that a thorough-going study of this subject must be essential to the prospective teacher ?
It may clear the ground a bit, if I say, at the outset, that one function of a university department of Education is to advise some persons to keep out of the teaching profession as well as to encourage and seek to equip others to enter it. Appropriate personal qualities, together with sound general scholarship and special attainments in some one field, are indispensible to the highest efficiency. Only the best are good enough to be entrusted with the important work of teachers. Would that we could always secure the best, and the best only!
So much misconception concerning the scope and meaning of the university study of Education still exists in the minds of intelligent persons that one may be pardoned for emphasizing again what is already clear from the foregoing paragraphs, namely, that the Study of Education is not merely a study of methods of teaching. While instruction in methods is an important part of the professional training of a teacher, it is only a small part. Ignorance of this fundamental fact is responsible for the oft-repeated dictum of many otherwise well-informed persons that "the teacher is born, not made.” One may, by the way, accept this dictum, and yet hold that the "born" teacher like the “born” preacher, or lawyer, profits enormously by the study of the technique of his calling.
The important thing to note, however, is that neither the teacher, nor the preacher, nor the lawyer devotes most of his time in preparing for his profession to studying the rules that govern the practice of his calling. The prospective lawyer's training is not limited to preparing briefs and pleading in moot court cases; the prospective preacher, similarly, does not devote most of his time in the Divinity School to homiletics. Just as the future lawyer or preacher devotes most of his time to studying the principles and the recorded experience of his profession, leaving the art of pleading or of preaching or of dealing with men to be perfected by actual practice, so the future teacher devotes most of his time to studying the principles and the history of Education, and the organization and administration of schools and school systems; leaving to actual practice, aided by native capacity, and good sense, the development of skill in teaching his subject and managing his pupils, or organizing and managing his school or system of schools. Nothing but practice can convert knowledge into power in teaching, as in any other profession.
What sensible advocates of the technical training of teachers claim for such training is this: that, given sound general scholarship, and special attainments in some one field of knowledge, a serious study of his future profession develops in the prospective teacher an insight into its difficulties ; a comprehension of the extent and complexity of its problems; a knowledge of its accumulated resources for guidance and for inspiration; and a keen sense of its duties and its privileges ;-in short, a professional consciousness that lifts the teacher out of the sphere of mere imitation and mechanical routine into the sphere of rationalized endeavor. Such a consciousness of the scope and meaning of his vocation predisposes and enables the young teacher to organize his experience as he goes along, so that with years comes wisdom and not sterility. It clarifies and energizes his work in the class-room, and while leading him to set a just value on his efficiency as a class-room teacher, gives him, at the same time, an outlook far beyond the class-room. It enables him to see the significance of his individual task in relation to that of his fellow-workers, and gradually makes it possible for him to aspire justly to the higher places in his profession—to the posts in which the direction of educational affairs, and educational leadership are demanded, and too often, at present, are found wanting.
The foregoing statement of the results claimed for the appropriate professional training of teachers implies no failure to recognize the superiority of “born" teachers over all other teachers. We need more born teachers than we shall ever get. “Born” teachers are, however, not born oftener than born preachers, or lawyers, or statesmen. Besides, even genius, as has already been suggested, is rendered more effective and often needs to be controlled by the insight and the breadth of view that careful study alone can develop. But it must be evident that no calling in life will ever be carried on exclusively or even largely by those of remarkable natural gifts. The world's work will always be done largely, not by geniuses, but by men and women of varying degrees of capacity, from mediocrity, to excellence, whose serious purposes are illuminated and rendered effective in practice by good preparation for the work they have to do-whether that work is building bridges, manufacturing or transporting goods, financeering business enterprises, healing the sick, pleading for or administering justice, teaching a class in geometry or history, or organizing and managing a school or a school system.
The truth of the contention that technical training for all teachers is essential to progressive efficiency is attested by the constantly increasing number of college-bred teachers who return to the graduate schools of our universities to study their profession for a year or more; or who come in large numbers to the university summer schools for the same purpose. Such teachers either did not or could not secure appropriate technical training before entering on their profession, and having discovered their needs—or, not infrequently, and more disastrously, having been found needy by their official su