John Franklin Bobbitt.

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they lacked accurate scientific knowledge of the factors in-
volved. The ideas that they put to work were crude; and
that is why. their labors were crude and inefficient. The
/> thought or subjective part of the work is the work essen-
tially. One indispensable thing for making work efficient is
a full supply of accurate scientific information concerning
all the factors. The second thing is a correct performance of
the ideational portion of the practical work. Let us begin
with the latter and call it

The antecedent performance

The practical performance of any task divides itself natu-
rally into two parts. First, there is the planning of the
work: making decisions as to exact objectives and as to the
specific materials and processes .to be employed. This task
involves performance in imagination of the entirfe labor from
incipiency to finished product. It involves marshaling all
of one's science relative to both objectives and processes;
and drawing plans as dictated by the science. One must also
test out in imagination each step in the series to see that
everything fits into everything else, and that there is no
contradiction, interference, or other obstacle.

Any complete task will serve to illustrate. Let us take


the case of the boy in the machine-shop who sets out to con-
struct a gas-engine. He first constructs it in his imagination.
This antecedent construction involves all of the parts, sizes,
designs, and relations. In this way, without any risk or
waste of materials, he may construct it over and over again,
to see that there are no mistakes, no interference of parts,
and no insurmountable difficulties. He may construct it in
many ways, using different designs, sizes of parts, or pro-
portions; and he may test out each design in order to deter-
mine the working plan that seems best. For these antece-
dent labors, he must mobilize all of his science and put it
to work both in the planning and the testing. His thought
may be concentrated into a few hours or distributed over
months. But when this antecedent construction and testing
are satisfactorily accomplished and decision made, the more
fundamental portion of the work is done. There remains
the objectification of his plans. This is not mere mechan-
ical registration of his decisions. Back of his hands, his
thought is still busy directing, guiding, and supervising.
His hands are the tools of his intellect. Such manual labors, *

before being mechanized into habit, a later process,

are essentially intellectual labors.

This must be emphasized because of the frequent tend- -v
ency in the training to commit one or the other of two \
fundamental errors. One is to leave out a large portion of
the ideational element, by giving ready-made plans to the
students which they are simply to follow: shop-manuals,
books of recipes, blue-print plans, ready-made patterns,
detailed directions. In such case pupils may get practically
no vision of the controlling science, and are not even put-
ting second-hand ideas to work. They may get nothing
more than ideas of mechanical manipulation without any
insight into the reasons for the processes. As training
experience, it is barren and ineffective.


/ The opposite error is the attempt to teach the science
without any relation to the work-situations. This no more
than the other is putting ideas to work; it is therefore not
intellectual work-experience. It may accomplish much as
intellectual play. Practical experience proves that it lays a
good foundation for later actual work-training, as where
the man trained in "pure" science goes into practical in-
dustry, and rapidly gets his next level of training. We do
not deny that the play-level provides an excellent founda-
tion for training of the work-type; we have everywhere
affirmed it. But it is not training on the work-level. And
in the degree in which the latter is necessary, the experience
is incomplete, inefficient, unfocused, fails to provide work-
valuations, work-habits, attitudes, and sense of responsi-
bility. As a method of training for serious duties, it too is

We must point out an important difference between the
antecedent or subjective performance of the act and the
later objective performance. In the former, one draws on
all his ideas that are in any way related to the task in hand.
If he has abundant ideas and a fertile imagination, he may
be brought into contact with about every important thing
in the field. He comes to know the science and properly to
value it, as he thus chooses the things that can serve his
purposes and rejects those that are of no service. The plan-
ning, the antecedent performance of the task, is, therefore,
from an educational point of view, the most important
part of it. But it cannot have vitality for education unless
it is really antecedent to intended action; unless it is an
organic portion of a total act of which the outward perform-
ance is but the culminating portion.

On the other hand, after decisions are made, plans drawn,
and only execution remaining, then one's mental life is
much narrowed. It is concerned intensively with the one


design that has been decided upon, the one set of materials
and methods. This culminating activity has many educa-
tional values: it gives motive and substantiality to the w
process; it gives depth to one's understanding and appreci-
ations; it confers operative skill. But it cannot be compared
with the antecedent labors for giving width of intellectual

The pupil must, therefore, not be robbed of the antecedent
performance by having the finished plans prescribed by the
teacher or by a class manual.

The antecedent performance possesses another important
value. Novice^will not acquire a sense of responsibility
unless they ai*S|^Kl to take the initiative, to make plans
and decision^ f or themselves, and to bear the responsibility
of making yie plans successful. But with novices, this in-
, waste of materials, and losses. Since pen-
enforce responsibility, and since loss is the
dty of mistakes, serious waste appears to be the
price of initiative and responsibility, if they are to be
real, and not merely make-believe.

We have a way out of the difficulty as we distinguish be-
tween antecedent and culminating performance; and as we
develop educational technique appropriate to the two.
Full and complete initiative can be given students for the ante-
cedent performance of the action. Then, before the steps
planned are actually taken, they can be reviewed, step by
step, as frequently as necessary by the student by way of
seeing that no mistake is involved. Plans can be taken up
in class discussion, and tried out in the critical testing imagi-
nation of teacher and pupils. Serious defects will thus be
discovered. Mistakes can be seen before they are made
actual. Losses can be realized, and the penalty enforced in
imagination sufficiently to restrain wrong action. As a
matter of fact, this is the way Nature enforces her penalties


most of the time in the case of the successful man. He is
successful because he anticipates mistakes and corrects
them before they are made. The unsuccessful man is the
one of narrower vision and duller imagination who does
not see his mistakes until he is injured or crushed beneath
them. " Experience is the best teacher." But experience in
anticipating mistakes and correcting them before they are
made is a better teacher than loss and injury. The plan
demands full development of the technique of antecedent

The technical information .

On the work-level, the task to be performed is central;
and the science is organized about it. A boy, for example,
in the school shop wishes to construct and operate a tele-
graphic apparatus. This ambition will serve as the center
of the science training. He will be
information concerning batteries, wiring,
making and breaking of circuits, etc. He will learn just the
things that he needs for the task in hand; and nothing more
at the time. Through using his ideas in the planning and in
the actual construction he comes to realize the full signifi-
cance of the various facts. The derived interest aroused is
for most individuals more potent than the native interest
in the abstract science facts and principles. For this reason
the knowledge is more effectively driven home and remem-

, There is a strong drift in public education toward this
project-method of organization. The school corn clubs, for
example, assemble all possible information relative to the
growth of corn and use it for the control of practical pro-
cedure. Children engaged in an anti-mosquito campaign
assemble just the entomological, bacteriological, and other
information needed in their labors, rejecting for the moment


all irrelevant scientific information. The tree-protecting
league gathers all possible facts concerning the species of
trees attacked by insects, fungi, etc., together with the
scientific information needed for combating the destructive
influences. They reject for the time all botanical or ento-
mological information that has no bearing on the problem
in hand. In weeding out the grammatical mistakes made
by children in their speech, the grammatical information is
assembled that relates to the specific mistakes found; all
other grammatical facts are passed by as irrelevant. In
brief, one learns the things needed for directing action in
connection with the situations in which the action is to take
place, and just previous to the drawing-up of the plans.
Only under such circumstances can knowledge properly
reveal its significance, be rightly focused upon human
affairs, or be normally assimilated. Knowing and doing
should grow up together.

In spite of these virtues, the project-method as a mode of
teaching science is not always in good repute. This is not
due to any inherent defect in the method when it is
complete. It is by far the most complicated method; and
differs most from familiar traditional ones. It is not, there-
fore, surprising that teachers often develop an incomplete
and ineffective form of the method. Whenever a training
task involves practical performance, this is so visible,
tangible, and solid to sense that it often comes to be con-
ceived as being the whole thing. The teacher attempts to
get the pupils in the most economical and expeditious way
to perform the practical actions by way of securing the re-
sults. The teachers, therefore, often do the thinking, draw "
up the plans, and prescribe procedure for the students. This
is exceedingly common in sewing-rooms, kitchens, and shops.
So far as the pupils' experience is concerned, the intellectual
element is largely dropped out. In such case the pupils do


not themselves perform the most vital portion of the work.
The part given over to them does not require that they
master the science involved for the sake of planning and

The technique of the project-method requires that in the
teaching the major attention be given to what we have
called the antecedent performance rather than to the
objective or culminating performance. It also requires that
the antecedent activities be performed by the students.

In the use of this method the necessary ideas are to be
got from at least three places. To make the matters clear
let us resume our illustration of the gas-engine :

1. In the first place, the boy, motivated by intention to
make the engine, will observe such engines in as great vari-
ety as available. For fullness of understanding, he should
operate them, and see the workings of the parts. He should
take them to pieces, and reassemble them. This experience
brings him into direct contact with all the science realities
involved the first vital step in learning science. After he
has thus experienced the realities, he is prepared to isolate
them, verbalize them, and appreciate quantitative rela-
tions. The situation does not contain all that he needs for
these latter purposes, and certainly not enough for full
scientific generalizations; but the things it contains he needs
as part of the total process.

2. In the second place, he will read descriptions, pictures,
drawings, and diagrams of engines that he has not seen, by
way of extending his vision of possibility. If he can have
direct access to two or three types of actual engines, he will
have an apperception-alphabet that will enable him easily
and quickly through reading to examine another ten or
twenty types. It would be well in such case to begin with
the historically earliest and simplest types, noting both the
structures and the science involved; then to trace the


changes that have been made by way of improvement and
of adaptation to special needs, and reasons for these changes,
When this experience is added, he is provided with a better
basis for generalizations. But probably even this is not
enough. . /

3. For illustrating the third step, let us isolate the single
feature of the ignition system. Instead of further widening
his understanding of the electrical science involved by look-
ing to still more engines, there is a limit beyond which
little or nothing new appears, he might look off and view
the wide field of electricity in general and its applications
in general. He is still motivated, let us say, by his project
of developing an improved type of ignition system. He
reads a full treatise on electricity and its applications. Where
his apperception is defective, he tries things out in the labo-
ratory. But, though taking a full survey of the "pure"
science, he is only sorting over the possibilities of the field,
locating suggestions, trying to find the ideas that he can
put to work. This pure-science overview is the ultimate
level of project-science experience.

While in a sense this is "pure" science, it is very different
from the usual non-functional type. Here the primary
thing in the student's consciousness is the project, the piece
of work to be done; not the satisfaction of intellectual inter-
ests. He examines every fact and principle in relation to
his practical problem, and not merely as a field of intel-
lectual sight-seeing. The two types of experience differ as
play differs from work.



EDUCATIONAL experiences must take place where they
can be normal. Frequently this is not at the schools.

The nature of the problem can be made clear by illustra-
tions of varying character. Let us take first the case of the
training of girls in sewing. The practical activities will
transfer to the schools with ease. The continuing need of
garments and other household necessities involving needle-
work gives rise to the normal responsibilities. While the
activities may take place in the individual homes, the
teacher going about from home to home to supervise it, the
plan is not administratively economical. The schools can
easily provide the simple appliances needed. The materials
can be carried to the schools as easily as books, and the
practical labors performed there as normally as at home.
When tasks can be so transferred without loss of normal
responsibility, this is administratively desirable.

The training in home cooking will not transfer with any
such ease. Food materials are bulky, and not easily carried
to the school for the work, nor easily returned to the homes.
They are perishable, easily subject to contamination in
transit, and often should be served as soon as preparation
is complete. Most of the practical activities therefore must
take place in the home kitchen, not in the school kitchen.
For supervising it, teachers need to be in intimate contact
with the homes. A few such cooking tasks can be trans-
ferred to the schools at times, as for example, certain special
baking, a portion of the canning, preserving, jelly-making,
etc. These can occasionally be performed at the school and
the product then returned to the homes of the girls.


Owing to the difficulty of providing normal responsibili-
ties, and therefore normal training conditions, many ^
schools at present are using a substitute. The preparation
of the school luncheon is used to provide responsible train-
ing conditions. The girls in relays provide daily one or two
dishes for the luncheon. In other cases they prepare lunch-
eons for the teachers, regularly or occasionally. In a few
schools they even go so far as to provide an entire noonday
meal each day including a dozen or more dishes, served
cafeteria-fashion for several hundred students. When a
needed activity will not transfer, it is thus possible occa-
sionally to find a sufficient substitute that is not mere make-

Recognition of the necessity of normal responsibility as
a factor of educational situations is a relatively recent devel-
opment. Not many years ago it was felt, for example, that
training in gardening could be given in our little school
gardens. Recently it has been discovered that in so far as
the school garden omits normal responsibility for securing
actual results that are to be used in serious ways, it is but a
play-garden. As such it is of value for preliminary training
of the play-type. It can introduce the subject and give
some beginning ideas as to gardening; and it can serve for
demonstration and experimental procedure; but it is in- ^
sufficient for serious training. It is being discovered that
gardening responsibility transfers to the school only with
great difficulty, and that therefore the training should take
place in the home gardens with the teacher going about
from home to home to supervise the work. The training
needs to be taken care of where the work can be normal, not^
where it may be most convenient for teachers.

Formerly we thought we could train machinists and car-
penters in our high-school manual-training shops. Now we
see that our shops of the usual type provide play-situations,


not work-situations. The constructive instinct is strong in
boys, and whether in school or not their play inclines them
to constructive activities. The usual school shop offers
these instincts a favorable outlet. This is of large value.
Constructive play, distributed from kindergarten to high
school, is a highly profitable training of the preliminary
type. It introduces novices to the field of serious mechanical
occupations. It can carry them but a portion of the way,
however. After such introduction the thing needed is re-
sponsible work, where the boy can participate in serious
mechanical activities, under actual working conditions.
The practical responsible aspects of shop training will
transfer to the schools under present conditions only with
great difficulty. It is scarcely possible to organize in any
sufficient way at our schools actual machine-shop produc-
tion or the actual building of houses. At the school only
preliminary, laboratory, and demonstration portions can
be taken care of. The culminating portions of the educative
process are to be found out in the world of responsible in-
dustry. To that must the students be sent for the later
levels of their mechanical training.

Our schools have tried to train for health by imparting
textbook and lecture information concerning matters of
anatomy, physiology, and hygiene. If the children got the
facts in mind well enough to recite and pass the examina-
tions, they were considered educated. Application of the
information has been looked upon as a thing to be done by
the pupils only after the examination has attested the com-
pleteness of their education. The application has been looked
upon as being in no sense a part of the training process;
certainly not a part of the school's responsibility. Recently
we are becoming better informed. We are discovering that
the application of the information is the culminating process
of education; that without the processes in which the knowl-


edge is put to work, education is only half done. We are
coming to see that education in hygiene is accomplished,
not in the moments of acquiring the preliminary technical
information at the school, but in the moments of using that */
information in the control of conduct; and in the recurring
moments of such actual use of knowledge while health habits are
being fixed. The training is accomplished as one puts his
ideas to work in the ventilation of his sleeping-room ; in his
choice of food; in caring for his teeth; in keeping up his mus-
cular strength and tone, in work and play; in evading
bacterial infection; and in the countless other matters in ^
which he is called upon Jo act.

Most of these hygienic training activities will not transfer
to the school. The training has to be accomplished where
the activity can take place normally. The school can give
necessary antecedent information; it can aid students in
forming judgments as to what to do; it can through teachers
and school nurses cooperate with parents in stimulating
and supervising the activities of the students; but in most
cases the self -directed activities that round out and fix the
training cannot be transferred to the schools. The home-
visiting health-nurse in continual contact with the home
situations in which the pupils live is the one ideally situated
for supervising the culminating aspects of the training.

When in later chapters we look at the responsible activi-
ties involved in training for citizenship, for leisure occupa-
tions, for parenthood, for religion, for social intercommuni-
cation, etc., we shall discover that in most fields of training
there are some of the culminating activities that transfer
to the schools with entire ease; that there are others which
transfer with difficulty; and that there are still others which
will not transfer at all. It will be found, too, that the rela-
tive value of any aspect of training is in no wise related to
the place where it has to be carried on. Very many activi-


ties most urgently needed can be transferred to the schools
only with great difficulty, or not at all. Education is no less
imperative, however, simply because of this difficulty or
impossibility of transfer. Our profession must find ways of
going out to the activities that cannot be brought to the
schools. This is now being done in part-time work, in giving
credit for home activities, and in school-club work of various

A good example comes from Iowa. The bulletin of the
Iowa Home- Work School-Credit Club enumerates three
hundred and thirty home activities of wide diversity for
which credit is given. It is unfortunate that space precludes
the presentation of the entire list; but the following table
shows the number of activities of each class for which credit
is given :

Number of
Agricultural activities:

Plants 45

Animals 18

Agricultural construction and farm economics .... 21
Home economics:

Sewing 23

Cooking 29

Laundry 17

Housekeeping 18

General construction, repairs, and other work with

tools 59

Home duties of boys and girls 9

Health activities 20

Self-culture (home reading, music, etc.) 16

Helping the aged, the weak, the ill, etc 11

Business practice 6

Thrift activities 4

Civic activities 10

Club projects 24

Total . ..330


Naturally such non-transferable activities require direc-
tion and supervision. Much of this is to be taken care of at
the school building in the antecedent planning for the activi-
ties. This involves the previous mastery of the necessary
information. So far as possible the children will do their
own planning and thus know what they are about. If the
antecedent portions of the activity are fully taken care of,
the need of personal supervision is greatly diminished. But
pupils need leadership and encouragement. While parents
here have a part to perform, the major responsibility rests
upon the teachers. It demands that they mingle in the ^
community life and come into contact with their pupils
while the latter are securing their educative experiences.
As teachers educate for efficient performance of life's affairs,
they must be a portion of the active world of affairs. In the
degree in which the experience itself cannot be transferred
to the classroom, in this degree the teacher himself cannot
be placed within a classroom for directing the work.

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Online LibraryJohn Franklin BobbittThe curriculum → online text (page 3 of 22)