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LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BUREAU OF EDUCATION,
Washington, D. C. SIR: From the time of its appointment several years ago the Bureau of Education has cooperated with the National Education Association Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education and has sought its aid in working out certain problems pertaining to the reorganization of courses of study in the high schools, which the bureau was unable to do alone because of the lack of a body of experts in this subject. The Commissioner of Education and several members of the staff of the bureau have served on the commission in one capacity or another, and it has been my purpose to recommend the several parts of the report of this commission for publication as bulletins of the Bureau of Education if, when completed, they appeared to be sufficiently thorough and comprehensive to make it desirable that they should be thus published for distribution among high-school principals and teachers and others interested in secondary education. A preliminary report of the work of all the sections of this commission was published as Bulletin, 1913, No. 41, and the report of the section on social studies was published as Bulletin, 1916, No. 28. I am transmitting herewith for publication the part of the report dealing with the reorganization of English in the secondary schools, which has been worked out by a joint committee representing the commission and the National Council of Teachers of English. The report was compiled by Mr. James Fleming Hosic, professor of English in the Chicago Normal School and a special collaborator in the Bureau of Education. Respectfully submitted.
P. P. CLAXTON,
Commissioner The SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR.
This report has been several years in the making. It represents, however inadequately, a distinct educational movement in which a large group of American educators have gradually come to a clear consciousness of limitations that they believe must be removed and of new and worthy purposes that they would see realized in the actual work of the schools.
What this movement is will be seen by a perusal of the section in which is presented a brief history of the committee and its work. It should be recognized that the agitation leading to the appointment of the committee was not personal or sporadic but impersonal and persistent. It sprang from a set of conditions that had grown up in the course of time with the evolution of American society and American education, and was confined to no one section, though more violent in some regions than in others because of greater conservatism and weight of conditions. In short, the efforts to bring about reform, though they may have seemed needlessly violent at times, were due to real dissatisfaction with the existing state and a genuine and quite inevitable desire to adjust the forces of the school to the changed conditions of society surrounding it.
The new view of the school course and of the aims and ideals of the teacher is merely one of the corollaries of our democratic theory, and hence is bound to work itself out to some decisive conclusion. The high school is rapidly becoming a common school. That is what it was first planned to be, and that is what the people seem now determined to make it. From that point of view the folly of insisting that the high-school course in English shall be a collegepreparatory course is evident. Nor will it answer to bring forward the shopworn plea that what best prepares for college best prepares for life. There is too much skepticism as to the value of much of present-day college work to warrant this. As a matter of fact, the college itself is passing through a period of adjustment. But more fundamental still is the fact that college-preparatory work in English never has prepared for college. College men freely confess that they make no attempt to base their courses upon what the high schools are supposed to have done, and, more significant still, boys and girls brought up in high schools free from the domination of the college-entrance ideal very frequently surpass their classmates who were carefully pointed toward the college examination. The entire doctrine of “preparation " for higher institutions is fallacious. The best preparation for anything is real effort and experience in the present.
The crux of the whole difficulty of college entrance in English is the formal examination. Examinations have their educational uses, and are skillfully employed by good teachers everywhere as educational instruments. But when the officials of a distant college or examining board undertake to lay down specific requirements in English and to set questions upon them, the results are very likely to be unfortunate. Teachers of high-school pupils read the requirements and the sample-question sheets, and then set to work to drill their pupils in the facts likely to be called for. A flood of over-edited classics sweeps over the schools. The whole tradition of method in English is set in the direction of the mere matter of fact, the detritus thrown up by the literary stream, and as a result real literary study is driven out and vital composition practice is scarcely attempted. The fact that nobody intended to bring about such results does not minimize their effect. The harm is actually done.
The hope of improvement lies in the schools themselves. The dogma that anybody can teach English--or at least anybody who knows the subject-has been much shaken of late. The high school is becoming imbued with a distinctly professional spirit. Highschool teachers and principals have set themselves to the working out of their own problems, which are indeed complex and difficult, and they are being very greatly aided by the scientific studies made possible by the growth of college departments of education. In the course of a few years we shall see the American high school fully established as an advanced common school or people's college."
This report on English will aid, it is believed, in bringing this consummation to pass. The niaterial for it has been collected in large measure by high-school workers. Several different committees have carried on extensive research in order to gather the facts upon which it is based. Since its inception a national organization of English teachers has sprung into being, and through its meetings, discussions, and investigations has made available an immense body of definite educational experience. Much of this the present report undertakes to digest and make readily accessible
Three definite purposes the report is intended to serve, namely: (1) To provide school authorities with information useful in arranging courses of study and in providing proper conditions; (2) to assist teachers in choosing the most valuable material and in handling it according to the best methods; and (3) to lay a basis for articulating elementary school and high school and high school and college in such a way as to make possible the best types of work in each.
Course making is always more or less a matter of scissors and paste. It is exceedingly difficult to secure the information necessary to make
it anything else. At present the English course in our high schools is characterized by a monotonous and unintelligent uniformity. It is believed that the presentation of the attempts of some of the more enterprising teachers to work out courses adapted to the needs of the pupils will prove a helpful stimulus and example to many others.
The conditions surrounding the work of English teaching are susceptible of vast improvement. The large number of pupils now commonly assigned to an English teacher makes thorough teaching all but impossible, both because of the consequent lack of attention to the individual pupil and the physical exhaustion of the teacher. No teacher, though a Hercules and a pedagogical genius both in one, can be expected to do justice to 200 pupils in English. Fortunately, such conditions are unnecessary. The expense of the subject per pupil is low, and more teachers can and must be employed.
More money should be spent also on equipment. There is no sufficient reason for lavishing expense upon shops and laboratories while the library and the English classroom are neglected. The results do not justify it.
And lastly, high-school English that calls out the active powers of boys and girls will do more than can be accomplished by any system of requirements and examinations to prepare them for more advanced study. It is not the knowledge of certain facts about authors or books which proves of worth in the college classroom in literature, but the habit of thoughtful reading and the joy of study. ; What college teachers delight to find is not so much information as intelligence, intelligence in gathering and digesting information. If this report should succeed in accentuating and making articulate the movement for a better type of study and teaching of high-school English, it will have justified itself.
A summary of the report has been approved by the reviewing committee of the commission on the reorganization of secondary education. This approval does not commit every member of the reriewing committee individually to every statement and every implied educational doctrine. It does, however, mean essential agreement as a committee with the general recommendations. On the basis of this summary, the reviewing committee has authorized the publication of the report by the Bureau of Education as one of the reports of the commission. The report has been officially approved also by the Board of Directors of the National Council of Teachers of English
JAMES FLEMING HOSIC, Secretary, National Council of Teachers of English, and
Chairman, National Joint Committee on the Reorganization of English in the Secondary Schools.
MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE
REORGANIZATION OF ENGLISH IN THE HIGH SCHOOLS.
James Fleming Hosic, chairman, head of the department of English, Chicago
Normal College, Chicago, Ill. Allan Abbott, assistant professor of English, Teachers' College, Columbia Uni
versity, New York City. Elizabeth G. Barbour, head of the department of English, Girls' High School,
Louisville, Ky. Mary D. Bradford, superintendent of schools, Kenosha, Wis. Emma J. Breck, head of the department of English, University High School,
Oakland, Cal. C..C. Certain, head of the department of English, Cass Technical High School,
Detroit, Mich. Randolph T. Congdon, field agent, University of the State of New York, Al
bany, N. Y. Mary E. Courtenay, teacher of English and oral expression, Englewood High
School, Chicago, Ill. Joseph V. Denney, dean of the College of Arts, Philosophy, and Science, Ohio
State University, Columbus, Ohio. Charles W. Evans, supervisor of English, East Orange, N. J. Mary B. Fontaine, supervisor of English, Charleston, W. Va. Allison Gaw, head of the department of English, University of Southern Cali
fornia, Los Angeles, Cal. Mary E. Hall, librarian, Girls' High School, Brooklyn, X. Y. W. Wilbur Hatfield, instructor in English, Chicago Normal College, Chicago, Ill. Benjamin A. Heydrick, head of the department of English, High School of
Commerce, New York City. Helen Hill, librarian, William Penn High School, Philadelphia, Pa. Alfred M. Hitchcock, head of the department of English, Public High School,
Hartford, Conn. Mrs. Henry Hulst, head of the department of English, Central High School,
Grand Rapids, Mich. Walter J. Hunting, superintendent of schools, Carson City, Nev. William D. Lewis, principal, William Penn High School, Philadelphia, Pa. Orton Lowe, assistant superintendent of Allegheny County schools, Wilkins
burg, Pa. Ę. H, Kemper McComb, head of the department of English, Manual Training
High School, Indianapolis, Ind. May McKitrick, assistant principal and head of the department of English, East
Technical High School, Cleveland, Ohio. Edwin L. Miller, principal, Northwestern High School, Detroit, Mich. Minnie E. Porter, teacher of English, Emerson School, Gary, Ind. Edwin T. Reed, college editor, Agricultural (College, Corvallis, Oreg. Iodwin T. Shurter, professor of public speaking, University of Texas, Aus
tin, Tex. Eimer W. Smith, professor of rhetoric and public speaking, Colgate University,
Hamilton, N. Y.