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REMARKS BY PROF. HENRY E. BOURNE, WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY.
It is hardly necessary at this stage of the discussion to argue the need of a fuller definition of the History Requirement for Entrance to College or for General School Courses. The statistics just presented prove the need beyond question. The practical unanimity of the teachers who have been consulted is not surprising in view of the record made upon examination by candidates for college. The situation must be well nigh intolerable when the chief reader in history suggests in his report, apropos of the ratings in medieval and modern history, "That such a subject should be dropped from the list of examinations for the reason that the schools do not give adequate preparation in it." Although the unsatisfactory condition of the secondary work in history is revealed sharply in the statistics of the College Entrance Board, it is almost equally apparent where the certificate system is used and where the only test applied is in the effort of the college teacher to build his work upon the foundation already laid. The wish too often expressed that his students had not taken history before entering college is a forcible, if ungallant, reminder that something is wrong. The source of the evil is not far to seek. If no agreement exists upon what is to be understood by a course in any of the four fields, how can an examiner write a paper that candidates can pass, or how can a college teacher carry on the work assuming a definite basis of attainment?
Other elements undoubtedly aggravate the condition. It is true that the subject is still assigned in many schools to inexperienced teachers or to those who have little knowledge of history and less interest in it. Nevertheless, it is obvious that their failure is rendered the more certain because not even the excellent teachers, nor the trainers of teachers, nor the makers of programs, agree upon what are the essential elements of a course, either the topics to be treated or the methods according to which the work is to be carried on. Under the circumstances to speak of history units seems like a jest.
In the management of well organized school subjects, like chemistry, English, Latin, or the modern languages, the teacher is in no uncertainty as to what is to be taught. He knows the point he must reach at each stage of the course and how the work should be done. To deviate in any essential particular would be to mark himself as ignorant or eccentric. The individuality of the teacher of history is not hampered in this fashion. He may wander as fancy impels, and in any way his ingenuity suggests, over a wide range of topics, lingering or hastening on. No disagreeable criticisms need be anticipated, if only he completes the text-book within the period fixed by the curriculum.
The difficulties of the situation are increased by the lack of a commonly accepted order in which the four fields find a place in the curriculum. As a result of the elective system few students take more than two of the four. This doubles the confusion. If a medieval and modern history course is to be de
fined, shall this be done to suit the capacity of pupils of the second year or of the fourth? Shall it be assumed that the pupil has already taken ancient history or English history, or no history at all? If the class includes pupils who have had no previous courses and others who have had different courses, taken at different stages of maturity, and, consequently by a different method, how is it possible to give the course anything beyond an informational character?
The difficulty is increased by the failure in some quarters to differentiate secondary work from college work. The writers and publishers of school and college text-books are tempted to treat this defect as a virtue because it enlarges the market of particular books. The lack of differentiation may touch the selection of topics as well as the method of conducting the course. No excuse for anticipating the maturer method and point of view can be drawn from the fact that a majority of secondary pupils do not go to col lege. The history set before them should be suited to their capacity, training, and grade of experience. Under such limitations it should be of the sort that will be most serviceable in enabling them to comprehend our civilization and its origins and to approach in an intelligent way some of the more obvious problems of modern life. It should be preparatory in this sense, whether the pupil is to carry his studies further or they are to end with the secondary school. To attempt to do college work in the high school is as bad a blunder as to subordinate high school work to the requirements of the arbitrary standard which the colleges used to set up.
A practical difficulty in the way of doing much but text-book work was clearly pointed out a year or two ago by Professor Macdonald. I refer to the absence of well-organized school libraries. This fact, discouraging at it may be, suggests not so much an abandonment of plans of collateral reading as an agree ment upon a reasonable list from which the selections shall be drawn. If such an agreement should be reached the campaign to influence the expenditures of school boards for equipment could be intelligently carried on.
Such are some of the complications of the problem. In what I shall say about the proposed definition of the four fields of history I hope I may assume a conviction on our part that the secondary courses in history should aim to do something more than give to the pupil a grasp of facts supposedly essential; to be more specific, I hope we are agreed that these courses should include some training in the collection of facts, in the simpler methods of valuing testimony, as well as some practice in rapid reading of historical narratives and expositions. With this understanding I desire to urge that the definition go beyond the limits indicated in the questions sent out by the Committee on History. I hope the conference will authorize this committee to include in the definition not only the topics to be emphasized, those to be treated lightly, and those to be omitted, but also the necessary elements of supplementary work, with clear statements of method. Perhaps, several of these features
cannot readily be tested by examination. That is the problem of the College Entrance Board or of the entrance committees of the colleges. So long as history is treated almost wholly as an informational subject the undiscerning public will continue to suppose that it can be gotten up by some hurried cramming process or even by desultory reading. Most of us, I suppose, think that historical-mindedness is an accomplishment far more important than the memory of any particular body of facts. Now historical-mindedness must be the result either of wide reading of excellent historians or of a definite series of mental activities pursued habitually over a large part of the school period. A measure of it can be induced with a good text-book and a good teacher, principally the latter. But the good teacher will not become the rule until the leaders in the organization of history courses shall agree upon definite plans and accept no units which do not conform to them.
If the proposed definition contains simply the principal topics with a minimum requirement of collateral reading a step in advance will be taken. I am convinced, however, that we must accelerate the pace, that we should make a more inclusive definition, unless we are to be thrown on the defensive and see real history in many schools give place to a superficial study of current social and political problems. Suggestions in this direction are already coming from high quarters. In Cleveland our school system is being surveyed by educational experts under the management of the leading spirits of the Sage Foundation, and in the report on the curriculum a radical revision of the course in history is recommended. The work in history, it is declared, “should be developed on the basis of topics, a great abundance of reading being provided for each of the topics." Among the topics listed are Race Problems," Banks and Banking," "Strikes and Lockouts," Crime," and the like. It is true that the report emphasizes the need of a suitable historical background with its time relations, but this presupposition is not as likely to prove attractive to the reformers who desire to free history from the trammels of chronology, and who say that the "lessons of history are absolutely independent of time." I find in the last Texas History Teacher's Bulletin," apropos of an expected report of a committee of the National Education Association, the remark that "high school pupils of the future may study great movements and work out significant problems of history rather than attack the subject by arbitrary divisions." It would be easy to multiply quotations. If we do not move forward aggressively, we may soon be in the situation of those generals in the present war who are engaged chiefly in effecting strategic retreats to positions previously prepared in the rear.
It is easier to say what the general nature of the desired definition should be than to indicate its precise form and content. The suggestions contained in the reports of the Committee of Seven and of the Committee of Five are enlightening, but they are guiding principles and it is their exact application which we still lack. A new syllabus like that pre
pared under the auspices of the New England History Teachers' Association will not meet the requirements. The teacher who most needs help cannot accept its recommendations as a sole guide. The range of references is too great. In many cases also there is little discrimination between readings suited to college use and those suited to the use of secondary pupils.
The definition should, I believe, be a concrete plan of work, rather than an exposition of principles or a syllabus of references. It should be so constructed that teachers can follow its directions from section to section of the course until it was completed. The existence of a definite plan, adapted to practical use, would guarantee its wide acceptance, especially if it was the product of the joint effort of leading committees. This would go far toward standardizing the
I am not venturesome enough to attempt a detailed statement of what such a definition or plan of work should include. But I feel sure that certain elements should be found in it. In the first place, it should give a time distribution of the topics, so that the teacher would know how much ground is to be covered in the first month, how much in the second, etc. For illustrative purposes the minor topics should be indicated in a sufficient number of cases. In the second place, a reasonable minimum of tested reading should be given in connection with topics which lend themselves to such treatment. There are subjects the points of which are best brought out by a comparison of opinions or accounts. There are others upon which the statements in the text-book are literally texts and not explanations. But it is unnecessary to deal with all topics by this method. Such an effort would make the work impossible to control or test efficiently. A standard has to be established with reference to the conditions of the average school rather than the ideals of the exceptional school. If the readings were chosen from a brief list of the best books, the campaign to equip the schools with standard libraries in history would have some chances of success. In the third place, the course should include a few carefully graded exercises in ascertaining facts and in estimating roughly the value of different presentations of fact. This would not be research any more than a chemical experiment is research, but it would introduce the pupil to the simpler processes of disentangling the true from the false, just as the chemical experiment introduces him to the simpler methods of investigation in the mechanical sciences. There are now so many source books in each field that groups of selections upon the same topic can be utilized for the purpose of such exercises, although the plan might call into existence a source book for secondary schools composed solely of graded exercises. Other uses of source material such as Keatinge suggests may also be included in the plan.
I need not point out other desirable features, such as exercises in taking notes, geographical work, lists of selections for rapid reading, etc. We all realize the necessity of so organizing our work that the
pupils will be taught how to study. I fear the majority of them leave the secondary school with the notion that getting a history lesson is simply a matter of reading eight or ten pages in a half attentive fashion.
There is one aspect of the problem that I wish to discuss for a moment. The requirement which we are asked to define are those originally outlined by the Committee of Seven. The alternative course suggested more recently by the Committee of Five is not alluded to, for the reason, I suppose, that the College Entrance Board does not make out examination papers on that plan. There would be, however, some advantages in recognizing these newer divisions of the subject, by preparing a fuller definition of the fields indicated by the Committee of Five. Schools Schools could take their choice between the two treatments especially of European history. Many schools are already inclined to adopt the newer distribution of emphasis. In some schools it may be a question of such courses or of a study of current topics. The existence of a choice would not interfere with the aim of standardizing the subject. If the method is graded and progressive, if its principal features are well established and enforced, that aim will be accomplished.
REMARKS BY MARGARET MCGILL, THE NEWTON
DEFINITION OF HISTORY FIELDS.
The conditions under which history teachers work in New England secondary schools vary as widely as in the schools of the Middle States and South. Departmental work is the rule in the large city and suburban high schools, but there are very many of the smaller schools throughout New England where departmental work is not done and where conditions are such that it is impossible that it should be established. In these smaller schools, a Latin teacher must, perchance, take on history, the ancient language and the ancient history have some special affiliation in the minds of the arrangers of secondary school programs. We find even that more forced combination between mathematics and history. It is the old condition with which you are as familiar as we in New England, a condition existing and perpetuated because of the belief that since history is written for secondary schools in the English language and also conducted in that language in the history class-room any teacher may take it on as an extra subject if the appropriation for school purposes does not justify the employment of a specially trained history teacher.
Last fall, as has already been reported to you, a questionnaire was circulated among the members of the New England History Teachers' Association. The questions circulated dealt with the proposed definition of the history field. The answers history teachers in secondary schools were of much interest.
The majority of those answering this series of questions were agreed that the proposed definition of
the content of history courses would be of much value. To whom would such a definition be of value? It was not one class of schools that voted its approval of this definition-not one kind of teacher. It was not the teacher in the large high school alone-where work is divided upon a departmental basis-not alone the teacher of several subjects in the small high school.
The well-trained, the experienced, the poorly equipped, the beginner-all united to increase the majority that thought favorably of the attempt to define, if possible, the content of the history courses in the secondary schools. If there is any marked dissent from this agreement in regard to the necessity of such definition, it is on the part of the teachers whose inexperience or lack of training prevents their appreciation of the task they have dared in undertaking to teach history in a secondary school.
Why do the well-trained teachers favor a definition of the field? They realize the difficulties of selection, of emphasis, of a proper balance between political, biographical, military, social and economic aspects. I cite military history wittingly, not because personally I want to teach the details of all, or of many military campaigns, but because there are some aspects of military that I am convinced cannot be wisely omitted.
The experienced teacher then wants definition because the fields are so vast that some guide-posts would help to relieve that uncertainty in regard to the correct road to take through a field in which one has not entire confidence in the guidance furnished by one's own personal survey. The experienced teacher wants definition also for the sake of the inexperienced assistants who come under her direction in any large departmental high school.
The introduction of an untried teacher into the problems of history teaching would be so much more satisfactory and effective if one could present her at the outset with some definition of those things that a majority of college and secondary school history teachers agreed it were wisest to teach.
Such a definition could be used as the basis of her work; such a basis to be considered as quite essential and absolutely required. With a fixed basis of required work her individual abilities will be in less danger of suffering a check in their development, and her work will not suffer but gain through the confidence that general agreement in regard to the line that her work should follow will give her.
The inexperienced teacher in a high school where she is without the guidance of another history teacher evidently needs this definition more than the teacher who is under the direction of one more experienced. If she adds poor training to her inexperience, how much more is she in need of such direction in her work as definition of the contents of the field would pro
The text-book is not an infallible guide. Is there any text that does not need illumination, expansion, omissions? The text-book tells a continuous story. The essential topics must be removed from the environment of the text, then expanded, amplified, re
arranged, and presented in such fashion that important men and events are emphasized. So many text-books black-type the headings of each paragraph, and thus establish such uniformity of emphasis that emphasis ceases and guidance by text headings is obscured by their overuse. The content of a text-book, then, however able the book, is not the complete guide for which both experienced and inexperienced history teachers are asking.
There is a certain class of "courageous" teachers, shall we say, in New England, I wonder if you have them also in the Middle States, who have undertaken to teach history without much training. Perhaps the training represented by one history course in high school and one more in college is the sum total of their formal training. In some known cases this is too high an estimate of the amount of formal preparation. Do not these aspirants need definition of history subject matter to show them that there is much definiteness in the demands made upon them as proposed teachers of history and they must not think that anybody can teach this subject in the secondary school just because its class-room work is conducted in English. This type of teacher in New England is more awake than ever before to the demands of such a subject as history, and some of these teachers are asking for help.
The desire for definition then in New England is expressed by the experienced and inexperienced, the well-trained, the self-trained, the over-courageous and those who are not now as self-confident as when they undertook this serious business of taking on the teaching of history subjects in connection with other quite unrelated work.
Some of our history teachers have deprecated the idea of definition lest it lead to the limitation of history teaching to the preparation for college examinations, and that thus the needs and rights of the noncollege student will be obscured if not entirely submerged in those of the college-preparatory pupil. Others, and we are convinced that these constitute an important majority, are of the opinion that the results for those whom we call the "general student" will be only excellent.
Definiteness of idea in the mind of the history teacher, exactness of subject treatment will result in increased respect for and appreciation of the worth of a subject that also makes definite demands upon students.
In New England secondary schools, then, there is a strong sentiment among many teachers of history in favor of such a definition of the content of history fields as would enable them to do better work. This better work to be made possible not only for the student preparing for a college examination, but also for that general student who takes history for its own sake.
This improvement will come because with better definition the subjects needs for specifically trained teachers, for library equipment, for maps, slides, pictures, will be appreciated both by the teachers undertaking to be history teachers and by those powers. that select teachers and apportion school funds. The demand for the definition exists. The process and method of that definition remains to be determined.
REMARKS BY PROF. E. M. VIOLETTE, STATE NORMAL
If a more precise definition of the history requirements means the drafting of a plan of work which will outline in considerable detail the most essential topics that should constitute the core of the various courses in history offered in our secondary schools, and which will also indicate how these topics may be dealt with so as to bring out clearly the meaning and the significance of the great movements that have taken place in the past, then I am in favor of such a definition. If it means nothing more than a bare enumeration of those phases or movements of history that should be followed out in the different courses, with some pious observations as to the superiority of developing the study of history in this manner, then I should not be in favor of it since I feel that it would not likely be of any special value and would not render the situation any better than it is now.
Assuming, then, that a more precise definition means what has been stated as the first alternative, let me submit my reasons for favoring it.
1. The process of delimiting the field of history in our secondary schools has been going on slowly but steadily for a good many years. Evidence of this is to be found by comparing the text-books that were in general use in the different fields of history throughout the country twenty to twenty-five years ago with the newer ones that have come into use in the last ten The former were characterized on the years or so. its whole by a strictly chronological order of presenting the facts and by an attempt to give a little about a great many different topics, many of which were of minor importance. On the other hand, the newer books are marked by a decided tendency to get away from those things just mentioned that characterized the older ones and by a noticeable effort to give more and more attention to these matters that are closely related, and that are thought of as revealing the real significance of the period that may happen to be under consideration.
We have been visited in New England secondary schools with a wave of vocational and utilitarian ideas and practices. In this maze of chipping, filing, woodworking, blacksmithing, millinery, stenography, and typewriting, history needs to make its worthy demands upon the time and attention of the secondary school pupil as clear-cut as anyone of its competitors. The history courses would thus be recognized by both students, superintendent, school board and principals as knowing both what they have to offer and what equipment is needed to make their offering increasingly satisfactory to the teachers of the subject and to those students who either elect those courses or have them selected for them.
For example, in the text that was used twenty to twenty-five years ago in medieval and modern history, the chapter devoted to the Crusades was arranged so that each of the first four Crusades and the Chil
dren's Crusade received special treatment, several pages being given to each one. On the other hand, in the most recent texts in medieval and modern history the subject of the Crusades has been dealt with in a way so that only the first one receives anything like a detailed treatment, while the others are dismissed with only one or two brief paragraphs.
Again, in the texts in American history that were popular twenty to twenty-five years ago such topics as John Eliot's Mission to the Indians, King Philip's War, the Salzburgers and the Wesleys in Georgia, the Conway Plot, the Black Hawk War, the Seminole Wars, the Crawford Act, Dorr's Rebellion and a great host of other topics like them were included, and sometimes were given as much space as others that were vastly more important. Now not only are such topics as these just named missing altogether in some of the latest texts in American history, but many others that appear in both the older and the newer texts are treated with a very different degree of emphasis. For example, a topic that had been given considerable attention in the older texts may be dealt with very slightly in the newer ones, or vice versa, according to its significance. Moreover, the newer texts often contain matter that had never been thought of by the authors of the older texts, and as an almost invariable rule this new matter contributes to the development of some great movement in history that had either been dealt with inadequately in the older texts or not at all.
Another noticeable thing in the newer American history texts is the abandonment of the scheme of dealing with the history of our own country by administrations exclusively and in a strictly chronological order. Take the Missouri Compromise, for example. In the older texts this subject always appeared in the chapter or section that dealt with Monroe's administration. But in one of the newer texts it is introduced into one of three chapters that are devoted to the subject of 'Slavery and the West" which have been brought in after a study has been made of Van Buren's administration. In this way the Missouri Compromise has been given a new historical setting by definitely associating it with the movements affecting the expansion of slavery and the development of the west.
Other instances might be given of this sort of change in the treatment of the subject-matter not only in the text-books in medieval and modern history and in American history, but also in the other fields. But if our teaching experience reaches beyond ten years we are very familiar with them. The reason for recalling them to mind here is to point out that slowly but steadily the text-book writers have been delimiting the field of history, and that they will likely continue to do so. The question that rises in this connection is: Shall direction and acceleration be given by this Association to the delimitation that has been and is now going on, or shall it be left to the text-book writers to continue it in their own way and without any uniform standard? That brings me to my second reason for favoring the proposition before
2. Text-book writers are slow and cautious about making any great changes or innovations. For that they should not be taken to task too severely. They cannot play the role of reformer or innovator as they might often wish they could. The publishers attend to that, and for this we cannot find too great fault. But if there has been any improvement in the textbooks in the last ten or fifteen years, it has been due in part at least to the fact that the authors who have written them have on their own responsibility largely been narrowing the field of history, and unless we feel that this process of delimitation should continue to come slowly and as individual writers will venture to carry it forward, I cannot see why we should oppose an attempt on the part of this Association to give an impetus to the movement that will hasten us on our way to the goal towards which we are slowly tending. If this American Historical Association would undertake through a committee and a series of conferences to draft a plan of work that would set forth those topics that should constitute the core of the different courses in history, and would suggest methods of interpreting movements in history and of developing a scientific study of them, then a new order of text-books would be forthcoming almost at once. The readiness with which the publishers produced books that were constructed along the lines laid down by the Committees of Seven, Five and Eight of this Association as soon as their reports were out, is ground for believing that they will be ready to do the same thing if a committee should evolve some scheme that would give a fuller and a more precise definition of the courses in history in our secondary schools.
I am putting special emphasis upon this phase of the question because of the important part that the text-book plays in the typical secondary school. There may be a few secondary schools that eschew the text as an unmitigated evil and proceed without it, but to the great majority of the schools the text constitutes the foundation of the course in history, and unfortunately to many the superstructure also. Since, therefore, it follows that the level of the course in history in most of our secondary schools is determined by the text that is used, it behooves us to do all we can to encourage the making of the very best texts possible, and I feel that the drafting of a plan of work such as has been suggested will contribute materially to a great improvement in our text-books.
If there can be produced a new order of text-books based upon the idea here suggested, then I am sure that we shall have taken a step in the direction of solving another very perplexing problem, that of collateral reading. No live teacher of history is content to confine the work of his classes to what can be found in the texts. He believes heartily in extensive reading beyond the texts, and will put his students at it if there are any books available in the school library. But there is, I venture to say, no other problem in the teaching of history in our secondary schools so difficult of solution as that of how to get collateral reading done effectively. One reason why this is the case is that the information found in the