John Franklin Bobbitt.

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individual error-lists of each pupil. Watchfulness over the
speech of others is a more objective process than the sub-
jective watchfulness over one's own speech; it is therefore
a good preparation for self-watchfulness. It is easier to


develop a critical attitude toward errors when they are seen
in others than when seen in one's self; this can then be gen-
eralized and made to apply to one's own errors. Such pupil-
committee work can be wholly unobtrusive, and yet effec-
tive for a variety of purposes. It is a necessary ingredient of
training the pupils who do it; not merely a means of re-
lieving the teacher of diagnostic labors.

Where pupil-errors go undiscovered by both the pupil
himself and the committees, the teacher will extend the lists
by adding any others that he may have noted.

3. After the pupil has his list of errors, and his knowl-
edge of the right forms to be substituted, the next thing is
that he want to make the substitutions. The pupil is the
only individual that can do this. His will must therefore be
awakened. This is not a thing that can be normally accom-
plished through preaching, persuasion, threats, coercion, or
setting of lessons and drill exercises. Language is a social
process; the a\gak$ning is to be secured throughthose social
stimulations that normally incite one to watchfulness^over
his language, and which produce chagrin or mortification
when his language goes astray. It is a sensitive linguistic
conscience, one type of social conscience, that will hold
him in the paths of rectitude and prick him to effort at
return to grace when he finds himself fallen into trans-

To assert that such linguistic conscience is beyend chil-
dren is but to confess that one does not know children. The
boy who is chagrined when his teacher makes him use "big
words" and bookish English, is simply reacting to the lin-
guistic conscience which at the moment happens to rule
within the boy-group of which he is a member. He hates te
be laughed at that is to say, condemned -fey his fellows
for using a form of English not sanctioned by the conscience
of his group.


The problem of making a boy want to use good English is,
therefore, a problem of making his fellows expect him to use
good English, and condemn him if he does not. The problem |
of training the boy is one of training those to whom he f
reacts. It is to reach him indirectly. The task is to make the
society of which he is a part genuinely critical of his lan-
guage. This is not to say that they must be vocal, and rudely
point out to him his errors. This will but awaken contrary
reactions in him. It is his consciousness of their unspoken
condemnation of his failings that is most effective, and
which should be the usual thing, his own consciousness
voicing the social conscience and the social condemnation.
This does not excite contrary reactions in him, but rather
fires him to purge his language of its faults.

The problem, therefore, is how to bring the whole class sin-
cerely to condemn improper English in any of its forms of
impropriety. The task appears to have both positive and
negative aspects. Noting the latter first, pupils are to be
made critical of improper English in others. The pupil-
committee tasks of drawing up lists of pupil-errors in current
oral and written expression is an effective method of doing
this. One who has had extended experience in proof-reading,
or in reading student-papers, can appreciate the critical
linguistic conscience thereby developed.

On the positive side, there is the problem of developing
clarity, accuracy, and orderliness of thinking; and the con-
sequent parallel qualities of language. One so trained tends
to condemn slovenliness and obscurity of thought and ex-
pression. This positive program is a matter to be taken
care of by all teachers who have to do with thought as an
aspect of the training; and this means practically all depart-

Thus far we have discussed mainly the expression side of
the English. This leaves the problem of the receptive side


of language listening and- reading. Listening is so com-
pletely instinctive that it does not have to be taught. The
way to learn to listen is simply to listen. Reading is the
visual analogue of listening. In the purely visual part of it,
it is not impelled by instinct, and requires careful setting of
conditions and stimulations by teachers. But at bottom the
method is the same as for listening. One learns to read by
reading. Children will listen and easily learn to listen when
the things appeal to them; equally, after once getting a little
start, they will read and thereby learn to read, when pre-
sented with things that appeal to them. The problem of
curriculum-making for the single purpose of mastering the
mechanics of reading is mainly the provision of an abun-
dance of interesting reading matter for each grade, adapted
to the maturity of the pupils, and graded upward by such
easy stages that the pupil can do abundant and rapid read-
ing, usually silent, without being slowed down by difficulty
of language or thought. Every pupil of the first grade should '\
have easy and continuous access to not fewer than two or
three dozen appealing books; and each grade beyond, an J
ever-increasing number. Teachers will then find ways of
awakening interests, stimulating enthusiasms, getting the
pupils started into books; and then leave the children to
enter normally, and to lose themselves normally, in the
living experiences of reading.



WHAT are the specific mistakes or shortcomings or forms
of arrested development that result in our country from a
lack of knowledge of foreign languages?

If there are no important deficiencies that result from
failure to master one or more foreign languages, then there
is no need for including them at public expense in the cur-
riculum. If, on the other hand, there are serious resulting
defects, then the nature of the deficiencies will point to the
foreign language training that will prevent such undesirable

In order to avoid the pitfalls into which both the protag-
onists and the antagonists of foreign languages are prone
to fall, we must particularize the problems. What are the
deficiencies in one's performance of the labors of his calling
that result from lack of knowledge of foreign languages?
This question has to be separately put for each occupational
class and for each grade of labor from the simplesrroutine
levels up to the most complicated professional levels. Then
the questions continue through other fields. What are the
defects in ciyjc performance that are due to an inadequate
understanding of foreign languages? What are the defi-
ciencies of personal hygiene and community sanitation that
result from a lack of knowledge of foreign languages? What
are the aspects of family Me that are generally or frequently
suffering because of the inadequacy of training in foreign
languages? What are the shortcomings in the mpral and
religious life that are due to an insufficient knowledge of
foreign languages? What desirable leisure occupations are


faulty or seriously insufficient because of a lack of knowl-
edge of foreign languages? What are the specific defects in 4
our use of our mother-tongue which result chiefly or largely j
from ignorance of foreign languages and which can be cor-
rected most effectively and economically through the mas-
tery of such languages?

The problems need to be particularized in another direc-
tion. Are men to be trained for a spewing or only a reading
knowledge of the language? The curriculum folTTEe latter
purpose alone will be fundamentally different from the one
demanded by the first. While reading will be a large element
in the first case, the principal element must be speaking.
Classes must be small, meetings frequent, and much time
and labor given to grammar and composition. In the second
case there need be only a little speaking in the beginning for
giving pronunciation and certain language-imagery. The
chief need will be an abundant supply of fascinating reading
materials, so graded in degree of difficulty that after a start
has been made, the gradient of vocabulary, word-forms,
sentence-forms, etc., is so imperceptible that through full-
ness of reading without much help from teachers or diction-
aries or grammars the individual can attain reading pro-
ficiency. In this latter case classes may well be large and
class meetings infrequent.

Languages needed for occupational efficiency

The problems suggested are so numerous and complex
that we can here touch upon only a few of the more funda-
mental. Let us look first to the occupational values of the
foreign languages. The occupational argument is the one
most urged by our colleges in the case of modern languages;
and the college influences the lower schools. The argument
takes several forms. Qne is that all college men and women
must read the technicaTliterature of their specialties in the


foreign languages in sufficient degree to justify the expend-
iture of some years of preparatory language-training for the
purpose. Since the higla-seliQalg do not know which of their
students are going on to college, they proceed to require
the foreign languages of everybody; and so far as this voca-
tional argument is dominant, they encourage the modern
languages. The second occupational argument is commer-
cial and clerical. ^Business houses need clerks, correspond-
ents and agents for foreign fields who are thoroughly convers-
ant with the foreign languages involved. In other cases it is
urged that foreign languages should be taught for the pro-
motion of the business interests of immigrant communities.

For the occupational argument, let us make the matter
concrete by taking the case of the teaching profession. There
are upwards of six hundred thousand elementary and sec-
ondary teachers. As completely as any other profession,
theirs requires fullness of knowledge, width of outlook, and
ability to handle complex problems. Now what are the short-
comings in teaching ability that are due mainly to a lack of
knowledge of foreign languages? When one goes for answer
directly to the teacher's work or to the testimony of special-
ists, one finds enumerated many kinds of teaching defi-
ciency; but not one of them appears to be strictly and inevit-
ably due to a lack of knowledge of modern languages. As
one reads the judgments of superintendents, principals,
normal-school presidents and training-school directors as
to the causes of teaching deficiency, one does not find them
mentioning ignorance of modern languages as one of the
causes. If it were a major source of weakness, or even mod-
erately important, it would be discovered by some of them.

In a former chapter we discussed the need of the workers
in any field keeping abreast of progressive technical dis-
coveries and developments anywhere throughout the world.
Education is a field of the widest kind of experimentation in


all progressive countries. The teacher therefore should
obtain ideas concerning any important advance in educa-
tional thought or technique wherever it is being made,
whether in the United States, in Canada, in Great Britain,
France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzer-
land, Italy, Russia, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Aus-
tralia or New Zealand to mention countries where prog-
ress is being made. Also the teacher needs the professional
stimulation and width of outlook that comes from feeling
himself a membei^ofthewOTld-wide professional group.
This can result only^om~vital~c6ntacts, mainly through
socializing reading, with the profession throughout the

Another equally valid statement is that they should em-
ploy economical methods in securing this technical and
socializing information. Time and money at present are
needed for so many things that they must not be wasted
where more economical methods can be found. And what
is more, the technical and social needs require that the
things be carried through effectively and not in a perfunc-
tory and slip-shod manner. With these generally admitted
presumptions in mind, let us look at the situation.

There are two conceivable ways of accomplishing this
aspect of teacher-training. One method is to teach the lan-
guages of all of the countries enumerated about ten lan-
guages in all then to expect the teachers in training, in
colleges and normal schools, to get their technical and
socializing information from the reading of the original
literature in the various languages; and further to expect
them in some yet undiscovered way to secure the current
literature of these various lands in the towns where they
teach and look through it in order -to find the portions that
can be helpful for the purposes enumerated. The other pos-
sible plan is that which for some years has been developing


in the United States Bureau of Education, namely, the issu-
ance of specially prepared bulletins which present in English
the selected aspects of educational developments in the
various countries of the world. A few of the titles are illus-

1. Some suggestive features of the Swiss School System.

2. Educational system of rural Denmark.

3. The folk high schools of Denmark.

4. The Montessori system of education.

5. German Industrial Education and its lessons for the United

6. Educational system of China as recently reconstructed.

7. Latin-American universities and special schools.

8. The training of teachers in England, Scotland and Germany.

9. The auxiliary schools of Germany.

10. Secondary Schools of Central America, South America, and
the West Indies.

11. Some foreign educational surveys.

12. Demand for vocational education in the countries at war.

While this work of the Bureau is not yet sufficiently devel-
oped, it already goes much beyond the demands of the pro-
fession in general for the technical and socializing informa-
tion. Let there be a widespread and clearly- voiced demand
for a still more adequate bulletin literature, and the Bureau
can soon supply all professional needs. It will be necessary
to employ a few specialists each of whom has a thorough
knowledge of the needs of teachers in our own country and
an equally thorough knowledge of the educational condi-
tions in the foreign land upon which he is to report. The
knowledge of the foreign language, the foreign education,
and its professional literature, needs largely to be acquired
by these specialists upon the grounds. It is by living within
a foreign land at least half the time and as a life-long
vocation that such workers will be enabled to give effective
examination to all of the work that is to be reported upon;


and to make effective choice of just the things that American
teachers need. Only through vital contacts with both sides
can investigators make rational selection of technical facts;
or prepare effective socializing readings.

The foreign language method is highly expensive in time
and money. And for the two professional purposes men-
tioned, except in the case of a few specialists, it is wholly
ineffective. To teachers in general the foreign literature is
inaccessible; it is not written from the point of view of their
needs; it is voluminous, discursive, fragmentary, confused.
Teachers have not time to read a tenth of our own over-
discursive professional literature, much less that of foreign
lands. They scarcely have time to read the latter when it is
carefully selected and organized for them by specialists
familiar with their needs, and put into English.

This is not to deny the necessity of the foreign languages
for a few hundred professional research workers. Quite ob-
viously those engaged in searching through the literature of
foreign countries for the sake of finding the technical or
other information needed for immediate application or for
dissemination through our own country must have the lan-
guages of the countries from which the facts are drawn. This
justifies the foreign languages for strictly professional pur-
poses for perhaps one in a thousand. It is too expensive a
method to require the same of the other 999 in order that
the one be accommodated.

In discussing the situation of teachers at such length it
has been our intention to reveal the nature of the modern
language situation as regards all of the professions. Let one
examine medicine, engineering, finance, law, divinity, archi-
tecture, music, art, journalism, politics, and the profes-
sional levels of commerce, banking, transportation, agri-
culture, mining, etc. He will find that the members of mese
professions also need technical and socializing information


from all progressive countries of the world. But they too
need to use effective and economical methods. Each needs a I
few highly specialized research workers who know the for- /
eign languages and who can bring to them in English ther
valuable things from all lands.

Let one calculate the relative costs in either money or
time of the two plans, and the one suggested will be found
the more economical in a ratio of probably not less than a '
hundred to one. In degree of effectiveness for the profession
as a whole its relative advantages must be even greater.

When one looks to the rank and file of farmers, mechanics,
miners, housewives, milliners, and all others below the pro-
fessional level, one can discover reasons for vital contacts
with their occupational confreres throughout the world.
We are coming to be, and we think we ought to be, cosmo-
politan-minded on all social levels. Men and women there-
fore of all ranks and classes should read; but it is obvious
that for effectiveness and economy the reading should be ^
in the mother-tongue. It will be a hard enough task to get I
it done even through that easy medium. Unless specially I
situated, therefore, there seems to be no occupational |
reason for foreign languages for the millions of workers
below the professional levels.

It will be argued that commerce has international rela-
tionships which involve other occupational needs than those
mentioned. The large business houses having contact with
foreign lands need correspondents, agents, and clerical
workers who have a thorough familiarity with the language
of the country with which the house is dealing. When they
deal with Brazil their specialized employees must know
Portuguese; when with Japan and China, it is Japanese and
Chinese; with Russia, Russian, etc.

In large measure the foreign agents, clerks, and corre- i
spondents will be native to the country itself. So far as I


native and the degree is an increasing one there is no
training problem for our schools. It is necessary, however,
we are told, to have a certain percentage of native Americans
for this work, especially as leaders. They need to be thor-
oughly trained for the purpose. They need a high degree
of proficiency in understanding, speaking, and writing the
foreign tongue. To be effective they must know the turns
of phrase, the subtleties of expression, the idioms and every-
thing that is effective in making appeal to intellect and emo-
tion within the country. They must both think and speak
in the language, not translate, hesitate, and talk like a book
or worse. Such proficiency is to be attained only by liv-
ing in the land where the language is native.

Quite clearly this is but a minute field of specialized voca-
tional training. In proportion as a field calls for but few
workers, especially if the training must be intensive and
thorough, vocational guidance should see that but few are
trained. It is possible to urge that since one in each thou-
sand high-school students will go into positions requiring
Spanish, and since we do not usually know which is to be
that one, we should therefore permit or encourage all to
take the Spanish. To train the hundreds who do not need
it merely to meet the needs of the one that does is a highly
uneconomical method of meeting the needs of the one. And
it loses sight of the needs of the hundreds. After public
education has provided adequate vocational training for the
millions who do not go into this narrowly specialized voca-
tional field, then it will be time to undertake the specialized
training of the few hundreds who do.

Language needed for civic activities

What are the defects in civic performance in our country
that are demonstrably due to a lack of knowledge of foreign
languages on the part of the citizens? Social leaders, polit-


ical parties, and newspapers are busy, each from its own
point of view, in pointing out numerous social deficiencies
and their causes. They do not, however, point to ignorance
of foreign languages as one of the important sources of gen-
erally admitted civic inefficiency. When so many thousands
of eyes are scanning the field, and when they are so often
rendered acute by self-interest, it is not probable that any
really fundamental cause of civic shortcoming can escape
all eyes.

In other chapters we have referred to readings necessary
for developing national and municipal large-group conscious-
ness. It is certain that the mother-tongue is most effective
for giving understanding; for arousing emotional responses;
and for developing sympathetic attitudes of mind. But
when we look to the international situation, the problem is
different. Man needs also to read for world-democratic sym-
pathies and understandings. Is the English the only lan-
guage that we need for the purpose?

There are two conceivable ways of entering into world-
experience. The foreign language advocates present one of
these. We do not, they say, rightly enter into the experi-
ences of other peoples unless we think their experience in
the same language-terms in which they think that expe-
rience. Rarely or never do they carry out their argu-
ment to its logical conclusion. It contains the implication
that we should learn the languages of the nations through-
out the earth. Naturally the deprovincialization would be
most effectively brought about through learning those of
the largest nations in case only a portion could be covered.
The most important languages, therefore, for the purpose
would be Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Hindu-
stani, German, and French. These with English would per-
haps sufficiently cover the earth. It must be observed that
the thing wanted is a planetary consciousness, not a mere


French one from learning French, or German one from
learning German, or Roman one from learning Latin. If
foreign languages are the necessary means for this purpose,
clearly the ends cannot be reached through the study of
just one foreign language, or even two.

The alternative method is reading the history of nations
in the English tongue and the literature of nations in good
English translations. As a matter of fact, human experience
in its fundamentals is much the same the world over, differ-
ing only in details and proportions. It can be expressed
about equally well by any of the world's developed lan-
guages. The basic thing is not the language but the experi-
ence in the mind of the writer upon the one hand, and the
reconstructed experience in the mind of the reader upon
the other. It matters little what system of symbols is em-
ployed in the transmission of this experience from the one
to the other; or whether it starts in one language and through
translation arrives in another. The only thing that counts
is adequacy of reconstruction of the experience. Emerson
once said: "I should as soon think of swimming across the
Charles River when I wish to go to Boston as of reading all
my books in the original when I have them rendered for me
in my mother-tongue.'*

Foreign languages needed for family life

It is obvious that under normal conditions the mother-
tongue is all that is needed for family life.

We have a serious problem, however, in the case of immi-
grant populations, the adults of which bring a foreign tongue
to our country, while the children grow up within an Eng-
lish language atmosphere. The hnmigrants, in most in-
stances, are laborers. They often use a corrupt variety of
their native tongue. They are not greatly familiar with the
literature of their own land. Their social status often causes

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Online LibraryJohn Franklin BobbittThe curriculum → online text (page 19 of 22)