John Franklin Bobbitt.

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directly participate in the various activities and experi-
ences of the fishing fleet off Newfoundland, and they will


have come into contact with that type of human experi-
ence almost as efficaciously as if they had been actually
upon the waters. Let them in the same vivid way travel
in spirit across the wide plains of Russia, up the rivers of
China, through the jungles of Africa or Brazil, across the
Polar ice-fields, with the ore-fleets of the United States
Steel Corporation, live upon the cotton plantations of the
South, the great wheat farms of the Northwest, in the timber
regions of Georgia and Oregon, etc., let them thus know
realities from vital contacts with them and only then are
they prepared for the geographical problem-solving which
should develop an understanding of the more general in-
fluences, forces, and relationships. Experiential educa-
tion aims at the greatest possible educational efficiency,
substantiality, and practicality of result. It employs in-
terest for the sake of vividness and massiveness of experi-
ence; not for the sake of pleasantness. It uses pleasantness
as a means; not as an end.

The story does not end with the grammar grades. The
geographical program of the past has aimed so little at this
adult leisure occupation, that it has tended to stop at the
end of the seventh grade. But looked at from the point of
view of purposes, it seems clear that this type of experience
should continue throughout one's entire training. It is not
possible to develop habits and appreciations needed for
adulthood in the first seven grades, and then leave them in
storage unused for years until taken by up the adult. They
will not be there. The only practicable way is for high
school and college to continue this indirect observational
experience through readings appropriate to their higher
levels of mental maturity. There will be increased atten-
tion to forces, the subtler relations, and general principles.
But mere verbal didacticism apart from essential contacts
with reality is no more appropriate for these levels than


for the lower; and will no more lead to the adult habits
desired. A habit is to be acquired in the way it is later to
be exercised. If life-long observation of the practical reali-
ties of the world is 'to be the habit, then during adolescent
years it is a continuing observation of concrete realities
that will develop the habit. The thing that is to be con-
tinuous throughout life should obviously be continuous
throughout education.

The limitations of space forbid discussion here of the
reading programs of history and of science. But for both,
there is the same major purpose, and controlling principles.
The present ferment in both fields presages far-reaching
changes. The studies have not been organized as conscious
means of training for this intellectual leisure occupation.
The purpose itself is yet scarcely recognized as legitimate.

Let us now turn to literature, . in the narrower sense.
Since we are here dealing with the leisure occupation of
world-observation through reading, good literature for the
purpose is obviously that which presents adequate and
effective vicarious opportunity. To be complete it is to
provide not only for effective visualization but also for
emotional reactions in the reader like those of the original
observer and writer. The canons of literary discourse aim
simply at effectiveness in the indirect or language-obser-
vation method of viewing and experiencing reality.

Now for developing the leisure occupation here dis-
cussed, the literature to be selected is that which will give
the widest and fullest and most effective possible revela-
tion of the world as a whole in its multifarious divisions
and aspects. Any selection will be chosen not upon the
basis of literary form or structure; or nationality of the
writer; or language in which he originally wrote; or of the
age in which he lived; or recency of the selection; or fame
of the author. It is simply a question of whether it presents


a clear window through which one can look out upon ex-
istence. If it does not, then it matters not how famous the
author, or how difficult the selection, or what the wealth
of footnotes, it cannot be good for the purpose here de-

This has profound significance for the curriculum. In
the past we have tended to be provincial in our selec-
tions. The usual course of study in grammar grades and
high school tends to include only the literature of English
and American writers and to reveal little more than Eng-
land, Scotland, and America; and little that is recent. The
traditional courses have not, and have not consciously at-
tempted, to present any adequate revelation of Russia,
Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Brazil, and most of the other
regions of the earth. The purpose has been not so much
to reveal human life the world over as it has been to reveal
types and technical characteristics of literature. When
special teachers of the subject are asked, What is the fun-
damental purpose in the teaching of literature? the most
frequent reply is, The appreciation of literature. Almost
never do they say that it is an understanding and appre-
ciation of human-kind and human affairs and the general
setting of the great human drama.

Acceptance of this latter purpose must work profound
transformation in both spirit and content of the literature
curriculum. Selections will be chosen for their content-
value. They will aim at the greatest possible width of vision,
historical perspective, and depth of insight. The curriculum
will draw upon the literatures of all lands. For the purpose
here stated, good translations are on par with English and
American selections. The books of Homer, Virgil, the Old
Testament, Dante, Balzac, Maeterlinck, Bjornsen, Freytag,
Fabre, Sienkiewicz, and Tolstoy must be considered por-
tions of the total revelation that are just as vital and essen-


tial as those of Shakespeare, Scott, Dickens, Tennyson,
Stevenson, or Joseph Conrad.

The purpose demands catholicity of theme. The litera-
ture should reveal war, personal adventure, love, brigandage,
philanthropy, religion, travels, poverty, family life, com-
merce, agriculture, industry, transportation, government,
the struggle with nature and with disease, conflicting social
classes, the labors of science and technology; and the other
major ingredients of human existence. As literature rings
the changes upon these things for different historical
periods and in different portions of the world, its field is
interminable and presents material for a rich and satisfying
lifelong leisure occupation. It is the business of early edu-
cation to start youth upon this inspiring program; to bring
him to love it as he loves the simpler visual drama upon the
stage or screen; to develop habits in this field that are satis-
fying and permanent for the intellectual illumination of a

For the purposes mentioned, men need to use literature
of different types and structures; but this does not require
understanding of the technique of literary types and struc-
tures. A man can use a watch for the human purposes of
telling time without knowing the technique of the mechan-
ism. In the same way, he can use literature for securing the
revelation to which we have referred without knowing how
it is made.

The reading should be like witnessing a play at the the-
ater. The play presents an illusion of human life. All that
the spectator wants is this illusion. The more complete the
illusion, the more successful the play. The man need know
nothing about the various devices that were employed Jby
the playwright in producing the effects. As a matter of
fact, the more he knows about the technique of securing
effects and the more he sees the stage machinery, the less is


the play a real illusion of life. It becomes but a tissue of
technical devices. The knowledge of the technique not only
does not further the fundamental purpose of the play, it
actually interferes and prevents. In the same way, an undue
consciousness on the part of the reader as to technical liter-
ary machinery not only does not further the fundamental
purposes of the reading, but may actually hinder.

Should the literary selections used for educational pur-
poses be difficult? No, else clearness and vividness and im-
mediacy of impression were not literary virtues. The more
the literature facilitates the vision itself and the less it calls
attention to itself the more suitable it is for the purposes.
It is simply to say that a window of such clear glass that the
glass itself is not seen is better for the purposes of vision than
one which calls attention to itself. Or to resume our other
illustration, the play upon the stage should be so written
and presented as to involve no difficulty, no confusion, few
or no allusions to things not generally known by the audi-
ence. The witnesses must be able to take in the action as
rapidly as it is presented. The play that fails is one that is
obscure, confused, makes allusions to things that are not
understood, or presents other types of difficulty. It is ob-
vious that the literature which is used for inducing experi-
ence in the reader should be of the same clear character.

As a matter of fact, reading should be easy, rapid, inter-
esting, so that much ground will be covered within the avail-
able time and also so that it can be done chiefly because of
inner motive. We cannot expect adults, even trained adults,
to read things as leisure occupations which require constant
or even frequent references to dictionaries, handbooks, or
notes at the end of the volume. Children's natures are even
less adapted to any such machine-method of grinding
through a piece of literature. In proportion as the thing
is difficult and the reading slow, the pupil gets less of the


vision of things he ought to see. It fails to accomplish its
purpose. And what is more, it fails to develop within him the
much more permanent and fundamental things of apprecia-
tions, and right attitudes of mind toward his reading, and
right habits of using reading as a richly fructifying life-long
leisure occupation.

The way to make reading easy and rapid and pleasant is
to have much reading from the first grade onward; an ever
increasing quantity from grade to grade. Any selection that
is so difficult as greatly to impede progress thereby proves
that it belongs on a later level, and is to be prepared for by
readings that grade upward to its degree of difficulty. There
is evidence of insufficient preparatory reading if pupils have
to refer frequently to dictionaries, handbooks, or literary
notes. As a matter of fact, if the readings are properly
chosen, and if they are sufficiently abundant, such growth
of vocabulary should result that pupils should rarely have to
refer to dictionaries in their reading. If they have difficulty
with mythological and historical allusions, it means that
they have not had that wealth of mythological and historical
reading experiences which should precede and be considered
a prerequisite to the readings that involve allusions to those
things. A mythological handbook does not and cannot give
one the true flavor of mythology and therefore the true
spirit and significance of a mythological allusion; nor can a
historical reference book do any better by the historical
allusions. These things rightly to be known must be met
with in their proper settings and relationships.

In concluding this section let us summarize. For the
generality of men, literature is primarily a thing to be
experienced, not a thing to be studied; to be used, not to
be analyzed; to be pleasurable experience motivated from
within, and not tasks arbitrarily imposed from without.
The literature need not be old; neither need it be new. It ,


need not be by authors who are dead; neither is there reason
for holding mainly to authors who are living. It is not pri-
marily to reveal literary types; nor the characteristics of
literary epochs. It need not be only by authors who have
already become famous. It should be easy, rapidly read,
and voluminous in amount. It should provide for lifting
the reader to the higher levels of intellectual and aesthetic
experience. It should begin with fullness in the primary
grades and continue with increasing fullness during gram-
mar grades, high school, and college; and so provide for
proper fullness during the continuing education of ma-
turity. It should present world-literature, not merely that
of the English tongue. It should be all-inclusive in its
revelation, so far as human finitude and fragmentariness
will permit, rather than a revelation of scant and partial
aspects. It should present the full human drama and the
stage upon which it is enacted.

Along with the provision of a rich and appropriate read-
ing opportunity, there is the equally vital problem of pro-
viding a teacher who can rightly lead and guide this
reading experience. The qualified teacher is one who loves
reading, and who daily uses it in the renewal of his own vi-
sion; who has world-outlook, world-sympathies, a quickened
interest in the varied affairs of mankind; who values ex-
perience as a trainer of youth over and above memorization
of facts; who is a condition-setter and an influence rather
than a memorization-task-master; who knows the tastes
and interests and loves of the child's unfolding spirit at
each level of maturation so well that he can divine the
reading experiences most effective for awakening and exer-
cising and shaping the child; who can withhold his hand
in patience until the time is ripe, and then can subtly and
unsuspectedly crowd the experiences needed for the child's
unfoldment as the flood-tide, of awakening interest reaches


its crest and before the ebb has set in; who feels that his
responsibility is to the children, and to the unfolding
men and women within the children, rather than to
syllabi and programs and textbooks and time-schedules;
who knows how to use system and organization for effec-
tiveness and economy, and yet keep the elements of spon-
taneity and freedom of choice as to kinds and places and
amounts of experience; who knows a better way of manag-
ing child-experience than those who say arbitrarily to the
children that at 9.00 o'clock to-morrow you shall experi-
ence thus and so, at 9.30 to-morrow you shall experience
such and such a second thing, at 10.00 to-morrow your
experience shall be of this third type, and who thus me-
chanically grinds out child-experiences through days and
weeks and months of dreary drudgery.

So long has our profession taught that we think the only
way to educate is to teach. We have not sufficiently known
that to live will also educate. We have been busy providing
the conditions for teaching. Only recently are we coming
to know how to provide the conditions for living. Both
have a place; and the main thing is living.





LEAVING aside the physical, man's activities are primarily
social ; and the mother-tongue is man's primary instrument
of social intercourse and intercommunication. It is also the
principal vehicle of his thought. It may be said that he
needs to use it just well enough to get on with his fellows.
If he can understand and make himself understood, and if
he can do his thinking well enough in whatever quality of
language he may have developed, then nothing else~greatly
matters. It would appear, however, that an instrument
which is used almost continuously throughout one's waking
hours for thought and communication, and throughout one's
entire lifetime, should be a good instrument for the purpose,
not a crude cheap one; and that it should be well understood
and appreciated in order that it be carefully and intelli-
gently used. The motor-car that one uses for recreation one
prefers to be of good design, clean, properly finished, quiet,
smooth-running. One is not satisfied with just anything
that will run. One's clothing we feel should be of good design
and color, clean and not displeasing to others; not just any-
thing, regardless of others, that will keep one warm. In the
same way, one's language which is more intimately related
to one's life than either of these things and which is a perma-
nent possession, not one that is changed frequently, should
also be of good design, correct, polished, accurate and
socially pleasing; not just anything that will crudely express
crude thought.

It is generally recognized that the major training in the
mother-tongue is obtained in one's general social and Ian-


guage experience. In listening, talking, thinking, reading
and writing, one uses the mother-tongue of the social class
in which one moves; and thereby masters it. In the main he
will rise without teaching to the standard of correctness
that is set by the language of his social group. Here and
there he may need a little help in the grammar and compo-
sition, and somewhat more help in his start in the artificial
language forms involved in reading, writing and spelling.
But if he is to be educated nly for the language-life of the
group in which he moves, this additional curriculum of
conscious training usually need net be large. ^,

We feel however that the language-life of most social
groups is on a lower plane than it should be; that the lan-
guage abilities are inadequate for the language activities
demanded by the thought and action of a thoroughly human-
ized democracy. It is felt that the intelligence demanded
requires a type of language fitted to higher, more subtle and
more complicated types f thought; and that the social
agreeableness and mutual understanding of all classes
within a democracy demands a moie or less uniform level
of language excellence n the part of all people. This does
not mean uniformity ef type; but uniform elimination of
crudeness, or what we may term language-inefficiency.

Since the language-efficiency of all is to be raised to a
level above that of most, education is clearly here to be an
agency of social progress. It is not only to eliminate the
language weaknesses found in children as these are meas-
ured in terms of their adult group, but as measured by a
standard above that of their group.

Scientific curriculum-making has probably been more
fully developed in this field than in any other; though as
yet only in its beginnings. Grammar investigators in many
cities have been discovering the actual grammatical short-
comings; and on the basis of these, drawing up studies and


other experiences for the purpose of eliminating the gram-
matical deficiencies. Throughout the country, investigators
are drawing up lists of words commonly misspelled or mis-
pronounced; the types of composition weakness; kinds of
errors commonly made in handwriting, oral and silent read-
ing, etc. These are diagnoses of conditions by way of dis-
covering the particular objectives of conscious training.

Beyond this point of locating the objectives, scientific
investigations have not yet gone far. The series of pupil-
experiences that are prescribed for attaining the objectives
are usually based upon nothing better than the current edu-
cational hypotheses that have grown up out of practice.

It is probable that actual procedure often looks too
clusively to the particular errors to be prevented or cor-
rected, and insufficiently to the deeper roots of those errors]
In correcting or preventing grammatical errors, it is moi
important that one ardently desire to use correct Englis]
than that he memorize all the necessary technical informa-
tion or have all of his errors pointed out to him. Unless edy-
cation can first develop this desire, all other more dii
efforts must remain futile. Educatioi^here must therefor
aim primarily at fundamental valuations, appreciations ol
good language, a critical attitude toward and watchfuln<
over one's language, a social ambition to use language that)
is both effective and agreeable, a general social sensitiveness
to linguistic errors and weaknesses of types that are to be
eliminated, etc. These are particularized objectives just as
fully as a list of commonly misspelled words; and far more
fundamental. But for attaining these deeper objectives,
both educational thought and technique are yet very un-
certain. In the discussion that follows, unfortunately brief
and general because of lack of space, we can present prob-
abilities more frequently than certainties.

1. The first educational task is to provide each child and


youth with a rich and full language-life of the type desired.
Let him hear as fullylLsipossiBte the language of the kind he
is to use, and the undesirable kinds as little as possible. Let
him live abundantly in the rich fields of reading experience
with language of desired types flowing through his conscious-
ness and unconsciously moulding vocabulary, sentence-
forms, and language thought-structures. Let him have
i diversified experience with realities through dije^contacts,
t/// participation in action, observation, reading, etc., and at
*^ e same ti me * ne experience of verbalizing his experiences
in conversation, discussion, oral and wriUgn_jcfiport, both
informal and formal. Give variety, reality, responsibility
and substantiality to the non-linguistic experiences that
make up his life; and provide the opportunities for the nor-
mal language accompaniment. Make clear and adequate
thought as to realities the central feature of his intellectual
life; and language an adequate vehicle of this thought. The
education that can provide these experiences will take care
of practically all needed training in English.

Children and youths mainly need opportunities, to live
their language under rightly impelling conditions and cir-
cumstances. There has been too^much_English leaching;
not enough English living. Even the overworked English
teachers themselves admit that after having obtained the
lion's share of the curriculum for the English, their teach-
ing is far from successful. And their remedy: We must
have still more time. Give it to them, and they will soon be
asking for yet more. They have command over the ma-
chinery of teaching; but over most of the conditions of a full
language-life, they have no more command than other de-
partments. Language-teaching is a matter of adjusting the
whole range of educational experiences, and paralleling them
with the verbal element. The ordinary English teaching
relates to only partial aspects of this total experience.


2. The major training that comes from living a language-
life that parallels and verbalizes one's other experiences will
fall short at many points when not supplemented by con-
scious training. Let an individual have the richest language-
experience, he will be found making certain kinds of gram-
matical errors, misspelling and mispronouncing certain
words, and making other types of linguistic error. The cur-
riculum of conscious training for each individual will have
as its end the elimination of these errors. This means that
for one pupil the curriculum will be long; for another, short;
all depending on the length of the list of his errors. It means
that the conscious curriculum in English will not be the
same for any two pupils in .the same class; that a uniform
English curriculum is unthinkable. There is no more sanity
in it than in a uniform treatment of all cases that enter a

A variety of agencies may be enlisted in discovering the
curriculum objectives for each pupil. Fairly early in the
course the pupil himself can be set at the task of drawing
up his own error-lists for spelling, pronunciationTcoSbord,
verb-formsirhandwriting, sentence-structure, composition-
structure, etc. His labors here need to be brought to the
work-level as speedily and completely as possible. This
requires that he be conscious of the ends to be reached. His
own effort in defining those ends is a necessary portion of
the process of developing this understanding and sense of

Pupil-cominittees for each subject will serve in relays in
keeping tab upon all English errors of every type made by
each individual of the class; and make contributions to the

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Online LibraryJohn Franklin BobbittThe curriculum → online text (page 18 of 22)