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1879, WISCONSIN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION.--- VOL. IX.
TERMS, $1.00 — IN ADVANCE.
If Bill 18 sent, $1.10; after 6 months, $1.25; at end of year, $1.50. The JOURNAL OF EDUCATION will continue to be issued by the present editors and publishers, as heretofore. Thanking our subscribers for their patronage; our contributors for their interest and their articles, and the county superintendents, end many others, for their efforts in extending the circulation of the JOURNAL, the publishers will still endeavor to make it useful to the teachers and the educational interests of the State. Remittances and Communications should be addressed to
WHITFORD & PRADT, Madison, Wis.
ELEMENTS OF ENGLISH ANALYSIS, Illustrated by a New System of Diagrams. By Stephen H. Carpenter, Prof. of English in the University of Wisconsin.
This book, the result of the author's experience in the class room, is designed to assist students, by a System of Diagrams, in obtaining the outline structure of sentences, which a thorough knowledge of English grammar demands, and thus fix in the eye and mind the principles of analysis, a correct knowledge of which, as a rule, is wanting among students. Price, in boards, 25 cents. Mailed on receipt of price. In preparation, a Treatise on Orthoepy.
W. J. PARK & Co., Publishers, Madison, Wis.
forit. $5 pr.dz.
[Address before the Sauk County Teachers' Association, By J. T. LUNN, County
Empiricism is one of those words of learned length and thundering sound," en wrapping mystery enough to startle the average teacher into wishing to have none of it in anything of his; but alas! it is the duty of this effort to show to the average teacher that there is much of it in many things of his, and also to show that the merit or the blame of having it depends on circumstances.
The usual application of the word denotes superficiality or short sightedness, a reliance or pride in one's own narrow individual experiments and observations in opposition to the combined experience and thought of millions and a broad based science founded thereon. As all that any one person sees or all that he hears is quite limited in proportion to all that exists, any conclusions drawn from mere individual observation have so narrow a basis as, in general, to be unreliable, and hence the word partakes of the meaning of slipshod, superficial, and unmethodical. As applied to schooling, empiricism has its worst feature in that vast throng of teachers who from term to term and from year to year attempt to teach without any study of the science of education, the theory of instruction or the art of management; and whose whole work consists in unthinkingly copying what they have seen other teachers do, unable to give clear educational reasons for practicing any one thing they are practicing or for rejecting what they are not. Empiricism is clearly shown in the almost total lack of any such thing as professional preparation before the pupil in the school attempts to become the teacher of the school.
1- Vol. IX.- No. 6
Not one day has he spent in considering why his teacher commands. some things and forbids others and the effects of either; not a moment, has he spent in thinking of his own fitness for teaching and ability to return full value for the wages he intends to demand; not once does he ask his teacher to permit him to teach under his criticism; and as for buying, borrowing and reading educational literature before teaching, such an absurd idea never entered his head.
After commencing to teach, matters are but little improved; journals of education go a begging; teachers' institutes and associations languish; seldom is advice asked unless the teacher is cornered or threatened with trouble; open normal school doors vainly entreat him to enter; and so tightly does he grip his pocket book against all helps to teach, that after years of keeping school he rises to the sublime height of head of an ungraded backward school at starvation wages, and even such wages are often in excess of what he truly earns. Hundreds of teachers' whole stock in trade for teaching consists in having observed their teachers or other teachers do certain things which they unquestioningly copy; and as it is much easier to catch the form of a thing than to catch its inspiration, it is very common to see some very poor work done by some very good methods.
Again, as we are trying to make progress, the past should be left behind; but as our teachers copied from theirs and we copy from them it is very easy for us to be from a quarter to a half century behind the times. Human laziness is such that it is too much trouble to observe: thoroughly, too much trouble to imitate thoroughness, the tendency being to duplicate the things not needing thought and effort, and to omit those which do require effort and clear, close thought; and as past teaching has more of the thoughtless than of the thoughful, it is easy to see that our copying tendency leads us down hill instead of up. The blind copying what my teacher or others have done should be cast to the winds, and each and every item of school work held up to rigid criticism. How will these empirical items bear it? Assigning lessons without a word of introductory work. Requiring or permitting blind memorizing for recitation. Taking words only, as the evidence or measure of thoughts. Asking only the questions which the book supplies. Taking topics only in the order laid down in the book. Consulting no text books but the one used in class. Sticking to the alphabetic, and rejecting the word and phonic methods. Taking years to teach the penmanship we should in months. Teaching primary arithmetic by antiquated methods. Having droning, thoughtless
reading when the opposite can be had. Tolerating whispering, disorder and idleness because our fogy teacher did. By having common recesses where decency does not tolerate them. Half keeping a dirty register because they used to do so. By accepting or bragging up scrawly, slovenly work: Experience often fails to make us wise and observation is often taken to mean idle gazing, but taken each in its best sense, they yet fail to make us acquainted with the whole field; and we are as the child who thinks the world goes only as far as
Our empirical teacher lives in a little dell of his own, shut in from all the world without by his conceit in the fullness of his personal observation and experiments. By reading and by reasoning he never reaches upward and outward,
To stand as on a mountain steep,
And view the landscape o'er;
Swift rivers and broad deep.
Indeed it is astonishing and mortifying to see what shortsighted views many teachers take who pride themselves on what I have seen or what I have done.
In treating this word, the older edition of Webster says: "See Pirate, to which it is related," which affords us text for saying that in a sense our empirical teacher is a pirate or freebooter of the methods and thoughts of others which he unblushingly makes his own. To the real author he gives no credit and from himself he stints no praise. He never originates any creditable methods or ideas of his own for the benefit of others, but is like the horse leech, continually saying: “Give, Give," but never saying, take.
How many of us can point to any good thing in teaching and say, this is of my own personal origination, whose like I never saw or had hint of, and which I give to teaching as a slight compensation for the many things it has given me. Let us own
Let us own to the fact,
the fact, and say that all that I am and all that I practice as teacher, I owe to the genius and generosity of others. By thus acknowledging our poverty of merit we see ourselves as others see us " and remove any stain of stealthy pirating.
The same edition also says, “it is allied to Peril," and surely there is peril enough in the slipshod empiricism which marks so much of our school work. We turn out one teacher to twenty pupils, all of whom are slipshod in manners, neatness and order; slipshod in punctuality, energy and ambition; slipshod in reading, writing and arithmetic; slipshod in almost everything that can raise them to a higher plane. Their whole future, moral, social, and financial, is overcast and imperiled because of the thoughtless and often lazy manner in which their schooling has been done. Look about the country and in every hamlet, in valley and on ridge, and you may see young people whose attainments are a standing reproach to their teachers and the time spent in school.
In justice to itself it must be said that empiricism has another and a better side. Experience is no disgrace, observation in its right sense should be encouraged, and experiment wisely directed is the only road to advancement; and if we can not be originators or discoverers there is a merit in being a good copyist. It is unthinking, blind imitating that we condemn, but that imitation which is based on considerate observation until we can give clear reasons for pinning our faith to the thing observed, is commendable. We need, in teaching, more empirics, more thoughful observers, more experimenters, more imitators of the spirit of a method, guided by some such formula, as:
I. Why do I observe, imitate or experiment?
Every nook and cranny, line and precept of the school work needs such empirical cross-fire, and out of it will spring a wider awake and more progressive race of teachers.
Experiment means going out of the rut of habit and by a new mingling of ingredients to obtain a result different from former results, and in proportion to our wisdom in choosing and manipulating the ingredients will the result approach our desires. Now, one great cause of failure of teachers' experimentation is a lack of wisdom in selecting ingredients or in manipulating them, and poor unsatisfactory results appear. They are like the gunner who fires without taking aim or whose gun scatters too much.
By experiment and observation we can all be accumulating a store of facts which related at such meetings as this may have a key found around which to crystallize into systematic intelligible form. Some genius in each department of knowledge overlooks the whole field, studies the similarities, differences and relations of the several parts until chaos gives way to intelligent order. Such overtopping observers teachers should strive to become.
But such desirable empiricism is not confined to the theory and art of teaching. We should observe our own prejudices, habits, and in