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Volume VI. Number 8.


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Standards for Judging History Instruction


"The efficiency of any profession depends in large measure upon the degree to which it becomes scientific. The profession of teaching will improve (1) as its members direct their daily work by the scientific spirit and methods, that is, by honest, open-minded consideration of facts, by freedom from superstitions, fancies, or unverified guesses, and (2) in proportion as the leaders in education direct their choices of methods by the results of scientific investigation rather than by general opinion."

Thus writes Thorndike in a memorable chapter on nt the "Scientific Study of Teaching." "1 Two elements in the situation have hitherto precluded the scientific study of history teaching. First, both historian and history teacher have been unduly absorbed in the fact or content side of history work. With both, the chief concern has been an extension or accumulation of historical information, an elucidation of fact and theory of historical movement. The consideration of effective presentation of history in schools has at best received only formal or perfunctory attention from all concerned. The study of history teaching in the scientific spirit, that is, by experimentation and accurate analysis and testing of results, has scarcely been attempted by students either of history or of education. Secondly, the historian and history teacher have directed speculative thought and practical demonstration to the scientific method as applied to the historical narrative, but have ignored the scientific method as applied to historical instruction. Scholars such as Bernheim, Langlois and Seignobos, Vincent, Fling, and many others have elaborated, illustrated, and applied the principles of historical science. No such writers have attempted to formulate in a scientific way the principles of historical teaching.

It is far from the purpose of the present writer to disparage the importance to the teacher of history of either full and accurate knowledge of history, or of an understanding of the process by which the fund of knowledge has been accumulated; knowledge of history and understanding of historical method are both fundamental in effective teaching of the subject. We may go further and say that progress in the scientific study of history teaching will be conditioned both by full and definite knowledge of history and an adequate comprehension of the principles of historical method. To quote Professor Fling in this

1"The Principles of Teaching," by E. L. Thorndike, Chapter XVI.

connection, "To teach history successfully one must know how to study history scientifically." 2

But scientific method applied to historical writing and scientific method applied to historical instruction are widely different matters. The teacher of history who wishes to rise to the Higher planes of efficiency needs not only to understand what the difference is, but also to have a practical working experience in both processes. The former of these applications of scientific method to history has received marked attention from students and writers, and has even been incorporated into college courses for the training of secondary teachers. But the latter use of

scientific method in history has hardly claimed the serious attention of teachers themselves. Strangely enough, even courses for training history teachers scarcely recognize its transcendent importance. Yet the marked advance in recent years of the scientific study of education, particularly in the accurate analysis and measurement of the results of teaching, renders imperative upon history teachers careful study of the methods and results of their branch of the teaching craft.

The first step in the scientific analysis of teaching is the fixing of standards. One must first determine what are the desired results of his work before he can go far in testing or measuring these results. Clearly we must agree as to the results we wish to attain in history teaching before we can approximate a means of testing or a scale for measuring the results. This applies equally to the selection of subject material, and its organization and logical arrangement in a course of study, as to the methods of adapting the materials to the interests and capacities of children.

In a recent book, Professor F. A. McMurry has indicated certain standards for judging instruction in the elementary schools.3 These standards he discovers from a consideration of the purposes of teaching. The immediate purpose of teaching, he thinks, is to impart knowledge and power and form the habits that determine a well-ordered life. That is," he says, we must look directly to the life about us to find what subject-matter the school should offer, and how this should be treated." The course of study will be good to the degree in which it contains problems that are socially vital and yet within the com

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prehension and appreciation of pupils; and the method of presenting the course will be good in proportion as it exemplifies the methods of solving problems found most effective by the world's most intelligent workers.

From a possible list of elements in daily living that are socially important, the author selects four which are universally desirable., These are (1) motive on the part of pupils, (2) consideration of values by pupils, (3) attention to organization by pupils, and (4) initiative on the part of pupils. These four factors in everyday life, because of their universality, are particularly worthy as aims of instruction." They may be accepted as standards for judging the quality of instruction. That teaching is good, in the opinion of the author, which makes provision for these essential elements in daily living.


It would not perhaps be either difficult or highly instructive to show that these standards may be applied to history instruction in secondary schools. Doubtless, in the high school, as in elementary schools, some attention should be devoted to motivation in history work. Children and youth may profitably be encouraged to set up immediate and ultimate purposes in their daily study and reading of history. Added zest and interest in the subject may be aroused, for example, if suggestion is offered to a class in American history that it look into the part played by its own families in westward migration, or investigate the history of its respective churches of the locality, or discover the historic reasons for the prevailing division of opinion as to the desirability of extending Federal as against State authority. In e: ch case, it is observed, the point for investigation serves to illustrate the general topic, and at the same time connects itself with some immediate interest relating to the lives of the children. A general purpose might be proposed, viz., to discover how many of the wars of a period might, in the opinion of the class, have been averted by arbitration, thus illustrating the efficacy or inefficacy of this mode of settling international difficulties.

No doubt some thought should be given to the training of boys and girls in estimating relative values in history work. Occasion for the exercise of the power of appraisal of values arises in almost every lesson; for example, in judging the relative importance of names, of dates, and of leaders. Some dates are to be learned and remembered for all time; others only for the lesson. Pupils should evaluate and pass judgment in the matter for themselves. Likewise, they should acquire the habit of judging relative values in analyzing the causes or forces in a movement, the terms of a treaty, or the policies of a party.

In history teaching in high schools, as in elementary schools, there are both necessity and occasion for organization of ideas by the pupils. In no subject are individual facts more overwhelming in number and variety. The only hope of the student and teacher is the careful grouping and systematizing of facts,- tying them into bundles "-and this gives the needed training in organization. Logical and con

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structive outlining, arranging matter for a class report, marshaling evidence in support of a thesis, constitute training of the highest value.

Again, in history work, numerous occasions arise for fostering initiative on the part of pupils. They may be encouraged to express independent judg ments, offer original points of view, and indicate their individual preference of leaders and personalities. They may and should place their own estimates upon the importance of historic movements. They may be directed and stimulated to do certain forms of constructive work in which individual initiative has full play. Of such work, mention may be made of those exercises in which the pupil's knowledge is applied in concrete forms, e.g., the writing of historical letters, keeping historical diaries, composing historical dramas, and planning pageants, holding conventions and making treaties, impersonating historical charac ters, and participating in informal discussions, debates, and orations.

Thus we may, I believe, accept the general teaching standards as having application to history instruction. The point may well be raised that these standards for judging instruction have particular reference to the work of the elementary schools. They apply, moreover, equally with history to most or all other school subjects. The problem still remains to show the distinctive values claimed for history instruction in high schools, and to indicate acceptable standards for testing the quality of such instruction.

What are the desirable purposes of history teaching in high schools? What definite and distinctive types of mental training and habit formation does it afford? In answering this question, we need to take into account both the nature of history and the character of the social order in which the pupils are to live. For these is quite common agreement among those who have thought upon the matter that it is the unique task of history and its kindred subjects to train boys and girls for socially efficient living.

If we consider, then, the scientific nature and method of history, its theme of social evolution, and view also the complex and changing social order, with its ever-recurring problems of social adjustment, we may discover four kinds of worthy aims which may be claimed for history teaching in high schools. These are, (1) concrete and objective thinking, (2) application of historic truth to social situations, (3) analysis and interpretation of historical phenomena, and (4) use of the historical judgment. These purposes may be accepted as desirable standards for judging the quality of the teaching of history in the secondary school. That is to say, the history instruction which makes careful provision for these important objects may be rated as good in quality, and that which neglects any or all should be set down as poor teaching.

Let us first consider the standard of concrete and objective teaching of history.


In a recent essay, President Eliot has pointed out 4" The Tendency to the Concrete and Practical in Modern Education," by C. W. Eliot, pp. 7, 8.

in a convincing way the value of the concrete and Ed practical in modern education. He raises the question why the inductive philosophy has proved "to have such a transforming power on the habits, manners, customs, government, religion, and whole life dep of any people that accepts it and puts in into pracdtice." He then answers the question in substance as follows: The inductive method proceeds from the observation of the concrete and practical; it seeks the fact, it thinks little of the abstract or speculative; if it does not rely on any kind of revelation. It studies it the fact, the concrete object. It goes for the truth, the facts. Having observed the facts, it compares fact with fact, and fact group with fact group; and stor from the comparison it draws limited inference. Finally, it makes a careful record of all the observaHing tions, groupings, and inferences. Out of that inducistrative process have come, we may say without exaggeradis tion, all the new ways of doing things, all modern industries, all the new freedoms, collective potencies, and social equalizations.






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We have here suggested the supreme importance of inductive thinking in the teaching process. Not that any subject may be taught exclusively, or even chiefly, by the inductive method. History, more than all other subjects in the school curriculum, deals with generalized data. Investigation shows that almost every assertion of the historical writer, whether of text-book, monograph or monumental work, is a more or less generalized formula. Nearly hi every thought or statement of the teacher or student in interpreting the generalized formula will be itself that of a general or concept truth. What, then, is the function of the particular and concrete in history teaching? Simply this: Every generalized formula or concept statement must be made intelligible to the immature mind of the child by means of appropriate detail. Facts, figures, illustrations, concrete instances, suggestive examples, should illuminate and render full of significance the general forms of statement in which the historical narrative of necessity abounds.

Our first standard, then, is that of concreteness. By this token that teaching of history is sound and good which provides for illustrative detail at every stage. This is something more than manipulation of material, and involves the cultivation of the habit on the part of pupils of thinking inductively, of passing from the particular to the general and from the general back to the particular. More valuable training for the duties of civic and social life cannot be conceived.

How is the teacher of history to use concrete illustration with potent effect? A few pointed instances may make the matter clear. Take the case of the

indentured servant. What explanation of his social status both at home and in the colonies could surpass for clearness this sentence from the diary of a high grade redemptioner, dated January 26, 1774? "This day I, being reduced to the last shilling I had, was obliged to go to Virginia for four years as schoolmaster for Bedd, Board, and Washing, and five

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pounds during the whole time." The spirit and method of the owner of a fugitive slave is told with reality in the following notice taken from the Carolina Sentinel (Newbern, N. C.) for August 18, 1818: 'ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD. The subscriber, having legally outlawed his man Harry, offers the above reward for his head, or the same if delivered alive to me. Harry is a stout, well-made fellow, about five feet six inches high, small eyes, and an impudent look; he took with him when he absconded two coats, one grey and the other blue, and a homespun suit of winter clothes, together with some articles of clothing not recollected. The abovementioned negro is legally outlawed. Fair-field, near Washington, N. C. John Y. Bonner." Again, take the case of the early dependence of the South upon the farmers of the Northwest for many of its food supplies. James and Sanford state the matter thus 5: The South was dependent upon the Northwest for large amounts of its food supplies." The following clipping from a Natchez (La.) newspaper dated October 1826, supplies the needed detail: "Apples and Irish potatoes are good things. We have had good things in Natchez for the last week. Codfish and potatoes, with drawn potatoes and eggs; and apples raw, and apple-dumplings, and apple-pies, and baked apples; and roast potatoes, and potatoes boiled, and hash with potatoes in it, besides fresh flour, and sundry other articles, for which we are annually indebted to the father of waters (the Mississippi) and one of his older boys (the Ohio River); all these things have presented themselves to our delighted palates within the last few days."

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The pages of standard historians, of official reports, of newspapers, of diaries, letters, and journals abound in such concrete and highly illustrative material. All that is needed is that the enthusiastic teacher take the trouble to find it out.

Keatinge has an illuminating chapter on concrete illustration in history teaching." "The pupil must reason about matters which are concrete to him in every sense of the word," he says. Then he proceeds to give a case in point. A text-book formula runs, The Statute of Mortmain checked the giving of lands to corporations which were unable to perform feudal service." How may this rather bald statement be made intelligible to boys and girls? "To introduce the personal element a little fiction is useful," Keatinge goes on interestingly. "We introduce two barons, each living on his own estate. Let them be called baron A and baron B. Let the estates be drawn upon the blackboard, and let each baron be domiciled in his own stronghold.

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treason; and make it clear that it was from these and similar sources that the king's purse was filled, and that in this respect some barons must have been worth more to him than to others.

"We must now proceed to give a description of our two friends.

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Baron A is some thirty years old; he married young, and his two sons are of age; his two daughters have been married for some years; he is business-like, and has made all arrangements for the disposition of his property; he is extremely loyal. What are the king's chances of getting from this baron any of the fines mentioned above? Extremely small.

"Now consider baron B: he is forty-eight years old, a considerable age for this period, and is in poor health; he married late, and his eldest son is only fifteen years of age and of feeble constitution; he is unbusiness-like, and has probably not made the necessary legal arrangements about his property; he has three unmarried daughters who may become heiresses; he is suspected of treasonable designs.

"What are the king's chances of getting fines from him? Very considerable. Such a baron must have been a godsend to an extravagant monarch. Which of these barons is of greater value to his lord in this respect? Obviously baron B.


Baron B, as narrated, is in poor health. He was always of a religious disposition, and as he grows feebler he sees a good deal of the neighboring abbot. Finally, regardless of the interest of his children, he makes over the whole of his property to the monastery on his estate. What will the king get from the monastery on the counts mentioned above? Nothing whatever. It must be made clear to the class that there will be no orphan sons, no heiresses, no intestacy, for a corporation cannot die; no escheat for treason, for monks do not rebel.

"If, then, many barons imitate B, what is the result to the king? Poverty; no pocket-money. How can he prevent this? Evidently by forbidding the Evidently by forbidding the alienation of land to corporations of this kind.

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The statement of the Statute of Mortmain can now follow. Its abstract nature has vanished."

The illustration suggests another resource of the teacher in concrete demonstration. This is the use of objective methods for massing detail. The employment of blackboard, of diagram, picture, map, model, relic, what not, belongs to the category of inductive teaching.

A second aim of historical instruction having social significance and value is the utilization of historical knowledge, or its application to social situations. A crying need in everyday life is the ability to utilize in practical situations what one has learned in the school. A distressing weakness in modern school practice is the lack of opportunity to use what one has learned. Children are worked overtime in accumulating information which there is little or no chance to apply. In history this fault of teaching is greatly accentuated. Exercises for putting to the test one's knowledge of history seem scant enough. In arithmetic or algebra, the mastery of the process is accompanied

by countless examples or practical exercises for testing out the thoroughness of knowledge. So in language study, in manual work, in grammar, composition, the natural sciences. Only in history do we have an endless learning of new matter with rarely an occasion to use or apply what has been learned.

Yet if one looks carefully into the matter a surprisingly large number of ways of applying historical knowledge offer themselves. Countless instances of similarity between conditions in past ages and those of modern times are easily discoverable. Herein is available one great resource of the history teacher in training pupils to make application of historical truth. Analogous conditions may be discovered, comparisons established, and differences noted. A few illustrations may help us here. When in 264 B. C. the Roman Republic, at the opening of the first Punic War, sent its legions into Sicily and embarked upon career of external expansion, a situation arose, strikingly similar to that which faced the American Republic, when in 1898 its victorious fleet seized the Philippine Islands. Much was made by antiimperialists of the similarity at the time. The high school student of Roman history should see the similarity of conditions and point out the elements of difference. In this fashion, the pupils make vital and effective use of their knowledge of affairs in the Roman Republic in the third century B. C. Again, the social and economic crisis in Italy in 133 B. C. was not unlike that in this country in 1912. Once more, the Roman system of land administration-its title in the State, its scheme of survey, its distribution to the settlers-closely resembles that introduced into the new American Republic shortly after independence was established.

In American history and civics, applications of historical knowledge may often be made to State and local conditions. Reference has already been made to westward migration between 1815 and 1840. Understanding of the general movement may be tested by applying it to the settlement of the State of Indiana. On the background of the larger movement the pupils may see how the current poured into the State during these years, first from the upland regions of the South, then near the end of the period from the middle and eastern sections of the country, All the elements are here, the inducements to settlers, the modes of acquiring land, of laying out towns in the wilderness, of opening roads and other means of communication. One may even narrow the study to the locality, for scarcely a community was not affected in some degree by this movement. In similar fashion,

the study of the larger aspects in the nation of any of the following questions may be applied to the State; State aid of turnpikes, canals and railroads; State banks and banking; slavery extension; demand for cheap money; growth of cities and decay of rural life; and so on.

Another type of application of historical knowl edge is that made to historical situations, real or imagined. Let us select a few examples of application to imaginary situations. A useful exercise is the

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