Percy Arthur Barnett.

Common sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice online

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save effort in details. Hasty persons take the most
pains, and make the least speed ; they work without con-
centration. It is clear that if we allow our subjects to
overlap without illustrating one another, or if we crowd
our curriculum with subsidiary studies and neglect those
that are fundamental, we are spendthrifts of time and
endeavour. And this is what is assuredly brought on us
by a congested curriculum.

On the other hand, the same considerations that warn us
against the congestion of studies supply argu- An ^tended
rnents for a curriculum extended as widely as curriculum
time will permit. For the more things we learn in con-
nexion, the better we understand each ; and it is probably
true that the fault of existing schemes is not, in the main,

I2O Common Sense in Education

excess in the number of subjects taught but rather a waste-
ful lack of co-ordination. We could carry greater weight
if we packed better.

Of course all good teachers have endeavoured, time
out of mind, to excite and keep up the interest of their
pupils in their studies. But it is important to remember
that the interest required is not the sort of inducement
which is represented by the rubbing of honey round the
rim of the cup of medicine. It is rather the pupil's
lively desire and readiness to link the new fact to its
fellow in the regiment of the old facts established in
his mind.

The great apostles of " concentration " technically so
Concentra- called have laid down in setting forth their
tkm : se- curriculum the need for securing both a verti-
quenceand C al or psychological sequence of studies in
connexion the Hfe of learnerS) and also a horizontal or

logical connexion of studies or topics, so that what is
related in fact may be related also in the learner's mind.
But the endeavour to unite the psychological and logical
plan in this way is not always successful.

We are all agreed as to the need for a proper sequence
of studies, but errors are easily made in practice. Few
people would make the mistake of setting forth subjects
to young learners in the logical rather than the psycho-
logical order. We know well, for instance, that our labour
would be lost if we talked to them ever so learnedly about
protoplasm, though it is a fundamental conception of bi-
ology. But a young learner, a child, is at once interested
in a frve animal and its ways. In fact, the order of ideas
as they exist in a logical hierarchy is not the order in
which it is best to present them to the young. Yet every
attempt to teach subjects at too advanced a stage for
children is a mistake of this sort. Hence the injunction

The Manipulation of Curricula 121

to begin in most of our teaching with the particular, rather
, than the general. When therefore we arrange a curricu-
[ lum we must appeal in the early stages to the personal
nterest of children in life, their delight in broad colouring,
trong situations and heroic acts, not in articulations,
mechanism, and subtle characteristics ; for literature or
listory, to their interest in striking personalities, not
:onstitutional law and political philosophy ; for natural
listory and science, not to protoplasm and cells and other
undamentals of biology, but to the lively animal which
hey know.

The theory which lays it down that there should be a
/ertical sequence in studies, has of course been acted on
)y good teachers, more or less, at all times ; for they have
ndeavoured to make one subject prepare for another,
)r at all events to illustrate it. It is naturally easiest
o carry it into effect with very young children, whose
ender age necessitates a very simple curriculum. The
eacher, for instance, gives a lesson on birds' nests ;
hen sets the children to draw birds 1 nests under various
:onditions ; then asks them to write down or tell what
hey know about birds' nests, or narrate tales about

But besides a vertical sequence of subjects, there must
ilso be a horizontal connexion of topics. Allied subjects
nust be linked together, the objective being transformed
n what appears to be nature's order, to subjective, in the
earning mind. The connexion, according to the strictest
gospel, is to be in the form of concentration round a
' core/' and this " core " is to be history. History is to
taken in epochs, and round each epoch other studies
ire to be clustered geography, literature, mathematics,
md so forth. Each is to illustrate the others, or at least
o illustrate the history epoch adopted.

122 Common Sense in Education

The main objections to this plan of sequence and con-
centration may be thus summarised. To begin

Objections to . J

the strictest with, it would appear, after all, to construct
plan of a curriculum on logical grounds rather than

sequence and psychological. The adult looks round and

concentra- ^ Q ^ not what doe ^ but what he ^j^g ought

to, interest the pupil, and so constructs his
system. Secondly, the plan affects to base the order oi
studies on the order of the development of a people or
mankind in civilisation, though the analogy drawn is
certainly not yet close enough to justify, on grounds oi
logic, any very far-reaching inference, for this one reason
if for no other that the child in civilisation inherits ten-
dencies, which the race in its corresponding stage did not,
Again, we have no right to assume that either a people,
even the German or English or American people, or that
mankind itself, has completed its passage through all
stages up to final maturity ; it may still be in the infan^
or youthful or adolescent stage ; whereas we do know th
beginning, middle, and ripe end of contemporary ind
vidual human development. The fourth objection is eve
weightier. The course proposed should at least last u
to the arrival of the adult term of development, wherea
the authorised programme of the theory gives the pupi
his last lesson in his fourteenth year. Fifthly, the use
history as the nucleus or core of studies leads to a viola
tion of psychological law. We are driven to the use
types, and types are very difficult for children to corri
prehend. It is useless to expect a child to understan
that the history of the patriarchs is typical of paston
life, the history of the kings of Israel typical of ordere
government, and so forth.

We are*driven then, as teachers, to content ourselv*
with such careful manipulation of our time table as li<

The Manipulation of Curricula 123

in our power. We must provide as well as we can for
the three great working branches of education what the
already set forth. We must provide the right teacher can
proportion of time for each study in relation do
to its importance in our eyes. We must fit the material
that we employ to the age of the class, giving it what it
can digest in assimilable form. We must call for less
continuous effort from younger than from older children.
We must try to put the heaviest work earliest in th e
day, when the brain and body are best able to sustain

Perhaps the most important reform needed by our com-
mon school system is some plan which would
limit the actual school hours in relation to
age. A young child ought not to be under constraint,
even the mild constraint of the true Kindergarten, for so
much as a whole morning. But the school time has been
determined by tradition ; our practice is partly a survival
of the long-standing view which regarded the child as
capable of endless learning and saturation, and partly
the result of the parent's wish to get him out of the way
a wish which reflects less discredit on the poor than on
the well-to-do, who have the means of serving their
children's permanent interests and yet neglect them.
Experience and experiment have both shown that the
shorter hours are the more profitable. The time required
for mental digestion, during which there should be no
thought of teaching or directed mental activity, is longer
in the case of the child than in the case of the youth, and
in the case of the youth than in the case of the adolescent.
At all times, but particularly in early life, a class that is
being perpetually taught has no time to learn. Our little
children would often benefit more by being turned loose
in the playground, or even in the school-room, than by

124 Common Sense in Education

the most constant pseudo-Socratic use of the pseudo-
Socratic " method ".

The relation of "grades" to one another, and the
"Grades" possible bifurcations of curriculum depend
and Curricu- on what has been already set forth. So far,
lum no one has discovered a curriculum for the

primary school which shall be both complete in itself and
shall also form the natural basis for work in a secondary
stage. That is, if a pupil moves from the primary grade
to the secondary, he must in great measure start afresh.
Work is different in many important respects from the
first for children whose school life terminates at different

The education of the poorest children is at once fuller
and more meagre than that of others. We must remem-
ber once more that the radiating centre of training is the
home. But the poorest children are most at home in
the street, and here they get a training in practical life
and in devices for which the more favoured children have
to wait a much longer time. On the other hand, they see
less of books and of those leisured employments which
even in unrefined homes soften manners. School-life for
such children, and even for those of the artisan class,
will from the first be more " practical ". It will be more
immediately utilitarian. It cannot afford the longer pro-
cess of letting-alone which is so necessary for fuller
development. Their shorter course must fit them out
at once for earning a livelihood. The school atmo-(
sphere must be attractive, even seductive, to a degree
not by any means so needful in the case of those
who have better chances of wholesome pleasure in
other places. How little real gaiety the children of the
poor enjoy is astonishing, and we must therefore par-
ticularly exclude from the school all uncheerful topics

The Manipulation of Curricula 125

and associations. The primary school cannot be made
O bright.

The curriculum must be more synthetical than ana-
tical throughout. These children more than all others
ust learn to do, to put together, to speak.
Bifurcation at the age of sixteen or seventeen opens
ut a new set of difficulties. Here too, the Bifurcation
fficulty turns upon the necessity that presses in the sec-
n some pupils to prepare for their special ondary grade
ork, that is, for the work of their livelihood, before their
Deral education is complete. The point is treated very
lly by Mr. Glazebrook in Teaching and Organisation,
ut we may note here that the main points of differentia-
on are, first, the postponement of Latin, so that it need
ot be taken up at all by those who are to pursue a
urely commercial career, and, secondly, an increase of
e time given to applied sciences and modern languages.
Permutations and combinations within these limits are
ndless. But two remarks may be made. The entire
xclusion of Latin is a serious matter, even when a
chool course is completed at the end of the sixteenth
jar. If Latin were more rationally taught, that is, less
nalytically from the first, it might be made to do real
ervice even by then. And by the end of the sixteenth
ear, if teaching has been real, a boy should be able to
and speak at least one foreign language quite well
nough to make a good start in " business ".
The secondary schools for girls have certain great ad-
antages over those of boys. First of all, if Girls' schools
ley have no tradition to guide them, they and girls'
ave also no tradition to hamper them ; and curricula
ie field of their operations has been, compared with
lat of boys' schools, comparatively unencumbered by
recedent. They have been freer to compose their

126 Common Sense in Education

curriculum on sound lines. In the next place, in spite 1
of all that has been done to open out, very properly,!
new spheres of activity for women, women's functions are
far less diversified than those of men ; and therefore thei
curricula drawn up for them present fewer difficulties in'
the way of reconciling the claims of formative or general*
studies with the special studies preparing for the getting!
of a livelihood. The curricula of girls' schools may there-j
fore be expected to be more liberal than those of boys'l
schools of a corresponding type.

In girls' schools, therefore, we are not called upon td
consider the necessity of preparing pupils for a multitude
of different avocations ; we can give greater weight td
the studies that bear rather upon life than upon livelijl
hood; our training can be more truly an " all-round I]
training. Home life is the truest and most real part of lifef

But schools must have some principle of classificatior
Mrs.Bryant's Some girls are so much better prepared tha
principle of others in early years ; and girls differ, too,
classification very widely in physical and intellectual vigou:
Authorities tell us that there is far more uniformit
among boys than among girls.

The classification, then, seems naturally, as Mn
Bryant lays it down, to be simply a higher and lowe
classification. A secondary school for girls is to provic
a simple ordinary course, together with one that ma
lead the stronger and abler girls to work of a highd
standard. All need a training in letters, but not all
want Latin and Greek, or medieval English ; all
want some mathematics and science, but only some
want higher mathematics and specific sciences ; all
want at least some acquaintance with the more "aestheti
subjects, but a few only will specialise in music or graph

The Manipulation of Curricula 127

The side in the girls' curriculum corresponding to
the professional specialisation necessary in the Girls' special
boys' schools will be the subjects connected studies
with the special position occupied by women at home,
which has claims on the majority of them parallel to the
claims of external occupation on the majority of men.
They will therefore be taught the elements of domestic
and general economy, and the arts that make home
healthy and pleasant. The superstition which condemns
all girls alike to spend many hours of the working day
n the cultivation of music cannot be too strongly con-
lemned. It is easy to concede that an average girl may
>e more naturally expected to acquire a pleasure-giving
art than an average boy, but it is cruel and foolish to
>end all girls through the same mill and to prevent
hereby the acquisition of other knowledge and the culti-
vation of other capacities which are of greater spiritual
mportance. The practice is, to be sure, a relic of the
Id-established notion that women are designed chiefly
o make things pleasant for their male relations, but
hough that is (possibly) an excellent end to have in
lew, it is not the most important.

We may well rejoice that in some particulars the treat-
ment of English girls in relation to school life physical
las in this generation approximated to the differences
education hitherto consecrated to boys. It would be
grossly absurd to ignore the physical differences and
-ven physical inferiority of girls, for they cannot bear
uch long strains and so much strenuous competition as
x>ys. But a wider curriculum than that of the girls'
schools of the older type, and a greater degree of phy-
>ical freedom and muscular education, tend demonstrably
:o make women fitter to perform satisfactorily not only
luties which may be transferred to them from the sphere

128 Common Sense in Education

hitherto limited to men, but duties also from which no
legislation or social developments can relieve them. The
careful educator of women will subject girls to shorter
tasks than boys, will reduce emulation to its narrowest
limits, will send them as much as possible to real exercise
of limb in the open air, and will cultivate in them, above
all things, simplicity and self-control. Everything that
gives girls a reason for action is to be encouraged ; thq
development of mere sentiment is a peculiar and compli-
cated danger.

During the last thirty years so much striking work
The need for has been done in the growth and strengthen-
balance in ing of women's education as to give rise to a
girls' schools danger, so sensible women occasionally tell
us, that some women may see things in a mischievously
distorted perspective. Boys, we know, trained exclul
sively in a man's atmosphere and amidst the often um
civilising surroundings of exclusively male institutions!
tend to become rough and ungraceful, if not ungracious
in their dealings with women. The corresponding defe
in girls is the growth of a pervading sense of differenc
between them and men. The girls' school where girlj
are hearing perpetual appeals and remonstrances directe
to them in their character of women, where woman'!;
work, woman's place in history, woman's duties, woman*;]
claims, are constant topics, is not an entirely healt
institution. The proper balance is somehow destroye
there is inevitable posing, and the eternally feminir
atmosphere not unfrequently causes weariness and irritcj
tion. The result shows itself sometimes as an affecte
contempt for all men and men's matters, sometimes
mannishness and an equally disagreeable affectation
contempt for other women. The teacher of women dc
well to recall on occasion essential differences of

The Manipulation of Curricula 129

sexes, but boys and girls are best treated simply as
persons ; and the essential facts of their differences in
constitution and duties as men and women should be
reserved for rare treatment arising strictly out of special
occasion and proper opportunity.

This brings us naturally to the question of schools or
classes in which boys and girls, or men and Mixed
women, receive education in common. This schools and
" mixed " system is not very popular in this classes
country, though it has some very earnest advocates.
So far as primary schools are concerned, the experiment
has, to some extent, been tried over a sufficiently large
area and in a sufficiently large number of instances to
give us some grounds at least for coming to a conclusion.
In Scotland as in America the " mixed " system is all
but general, and though by no manner of means is
approbation universal, acquiescence and apparent satis-
faction are sufficiently common to justify the claim that
its practicability and usefulness, with certain reservations,
are proved. In England the rural primary school is
mostly " mixed," the town school mostly confined to
one sex or the other. In Scotland most schools just
above the primary are " mixed," in England very few

From what we have just seen in regard to the dis-
j tortion of perspective in schools limited to one sex, it
may very properly be argued that the "mixed" plan
I tends to the maintenance of a proper balance and natu-
ralness of sentiment. The ordinariness of the common
association of boys and girls in their most important
daily relations ought to and observers say it does
cultivate sane, equable, and graceful relations between

After long indecision, I am inclined to believe that


130 Common Sense in Education

the advocates of the common education in school are
Common right. The grave objection that the associa-
education of tion of boys and girls in school may tend
the boys and to sentimental distraction from the intellec-
girisaques- tua j wor k constituting the chief and proper
sphere of school activity is substantial enough,

convenience r j

but it may disappear before sensible govern-
ment and reasonable vigilance. A much more serious
objection seems to lie in the difficulty of suiting a curri-
culum to the distinctly different needs of boys and girls
without destroying on the one hand the variety which in
practice is found necessary for the boys, and on the other
the greater simplicity which is at present the special
privilege of the girls. The " common " or " mixed "
system seems to be essentially unsuitable to a school
on the residential plan. The sobering influence of the
normal relations and habits of home life check the growth
of sentimental difficulties arising from the school associa-
tion of boys and girls ; but in institutions where youths
and young women are brought up together, the great
preoccupation of discipline seems to be to keep these
victims of such abnormal organisation apart, and that
very effort produces the most undesirable effects.
Something remains to be said on the question of
" mixed " staffs. Is it possible and is it desir-

Mixed staffs , . . , ...

able to give boys and girls instruction at the
hands of both men and women ? In this matter too, the
primary schools have made some experiments for us by
sometimes adopting the plan of mixed staffs for economic
reasons, if for no other ; and it is a fact that women un-
doubtedly make the best of teachers for young boys as
well as girls. When we are dealing with older boys, the
physical necessities of discipline give rise to critical diffi-
culties, and in view of this, the primary schools do not

The Manipulation of Curricula 131

usually give women charge of boys over nine or ten,
except where other conditions of organisation make it
inevitable. No such restriction, however, is found neces-
sary in America, but whether discipline in the absence
of physical restraint is as satisfactory as it might be
is a point on which neither Americans themselves nor
impartial foreign observers are agreed.

It seems reasonable to believe that it is as bracing for
girls to receive occasional instruction from a sensible
man who has a sense of humour as it is for boys to
be taught by a cultivated woman. Women teachers of
girls are too often excessively prim and serious, and
men teachers of boys do not invariably give boys the
opportunity of experiencing the disciplinary influence of
delicacy and refinement.

From what has already been said, it will be readily
understood that any purposes of specialisation g .
should be held subservient to the main end of studies in
education, the teaching people how to live so relation to
as to make the best of their powers ; how to live Life and
rather than how to get a livelihood, for to get Livelihood
a livelihood is by no means equivalent to making the
best of one's powers. True education, as Mr. Rooper
says, is disinterested, is an end in itself; " technical"
education is interested, aims at contingent advantage.

Observe, however, that the term " special studies"
may be applied in three different ways. We Studies
may mean either the studies tending to the mSLy t> e
cultivation of some capacity highly developed "special"
in a particular individual and therefore likely, in three
if encouraged, to confer a great intellectual senses
benefit on the community ; or we may mean the culti-
vation of some capacity or set of capacities likely to be
of extraordinary service to an individual in getting a

132 Common Sense in Education

livelihood, or of some side of his intellectual or moral
nature which has not shown a natural normal develop-
ment ; or we may mean the cultivation of what is called
" accomplishments,'' the arts which make the externals
of life more ornate and stately, if not more agreeable.

The first seems, under certain conditions, to be justi-
speciaiisa- fiable on the ground of "public policy,"
tion, why because the finely cultivated individual, the
desirable great man, has from time to time manifestly
added enormously to the sum total of the human stock-
in-trade, social, material, political, literary, and so forth.
The history of mankind has, indeed, sometimes been
described as the history of its great men, and has been |
so treated.

The second seems to be desirable, and indeed inevit- j
able, owing to the operation of the laws governing the
division of labour or differentiation of function. The j
more complicated society grows, the more difficult is it
to conceive of all men knowing all things and discharging
all duties. We are constrained, by economy, to devise
separate spheres of labour, and to employ one man to do I
only a few things. We find that in order to do only a
few things well a man must be more minutely trained for
a limited series of operations than others are who are not
called upon to discharge those duties. So the pressure
of competition settles the question for us. To be sure j
of employment, a man must show that he is better than i

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Online LibraryPercy Arthur BarnettCommon sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice → online text (page 10 of 25)