How To Study and Teaching How To Study
by F. M. McMurry
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In each of these cases the teacher is the acknowledged leader. Her personality, as represented by voice, gesture, and manner, is drawn upon for stimulus; she gives directions, puts the questions, and makes the corrections, or sees that they are made. If she is accounted a good teacher, she is probably more active than her pupils and grows tired first.

Now, suppose that the teacher drops out and leaves the young person to attack a similar lesson alone. How is the situation changed? The purpose in the former case was the assimilation of the facts in the lesson by the pupil. That is still the purpose. There is, therefore, no change in that respect.

The method employed in the former case may be assumed to be as fully in accord with the laws of the pupil's mind as the teacher could make it. In short, the topic under consideration had to be carefully broken into its parts, and various keen questions touching the meaning and value of each had to be conceived in order that they might be considered and answered. The same mind is still present to be ministered to, so that, so far as possible, substantially the same method must be followed. There is, therefore, no important change in this respect. The purpose and the method in general being the same, it is clear that the two situations duplicate each other to a large extent. The same quantity of work must be done, and in practically the same way.

But there is a very striking difference. When the two studied together, the teacher not only did a part of the work, but she was the leader; the pupil was a follower, doing only the subordinate part. Now, being alone, he must do the principal part, in addition to the other. He must divide his topic into parts, and conceive all the questions that are worthy of attention; in brief, he must determine the course of procedure himself, or take the initiative. Herein is found the great difference between studying with a teacher and studying alone, and it is a fundamental one. Capacity for self- direction or initiation is not necessary in the usual class instruction; but it becomes indispensable the moment one undertakes independent study.

(1) The nature and importance of initiative by the pupil.

This capacity is not simply a matter of knowledge. One person may know much more than another about the factors involved in a proposed project, and still be inferior to the other in ability to plan its execution. It is not simply a matter of boldness, either, nor of energy, although both of these, as well as knowledge, are necessary elements. It signifies, in the main, rather a certain power of invention, or a resourcefulness in planning work, a resourcefulness that is sure to be exercised, however, only in case the other factors just mentioned are also present.

Power of initiative is the key to proper study. If different lessons were mastered in exactly the same manner, it might not be important. But that is not the case, for every new lesson brings a new situation. Experienced teachers know that one year of instruction in a certain study does not free them from the necessity of extensive preparation, if required to teach the same subject a second year. The discovery of this fact is one of the serious disappointments of young teachers. The same holds in study. Every new lesson, every new book, must be mastered in a way peculiar to itself; each affords a new test of resourcefulness. Thus the exercise of initiative is a constant and very important factor in all independent study.

(2) Why power of initiative cannot be acquired through imitation.

Power of initiative might still prove no source of difficulty, if it were something that could be acquired mainly by imitation. But there is the rub the case of the geography class mentioned on page 258 shows conclusively that the natural tendency of young people to imitate the example of initiative set by their teachers gives very little guarantee of the exercise of similar initiative on their part when studying alone.

And there are plain reasons for this. In the first place, there is the widest difference between seeing and doing, between theory and practice in general, so that one may observe an action and still fail utterly to duplicate it. That is very common. But, in addition, the power of initiative, being really the "ability to originate or start," calls for a good degree of originality and, therefore, lies largely outside the field of imitation. In the second place, the long- continued following of a leader, instead of fitting one to lead, may directly unfit one for that responsibility. In the case of the geography class it had been the leader who had determined how each lesson should be attacked; who had exercised resourcefulness in meeting unexpected obstacles; who had assumed responsibility for deciding what the crucial questions were, and when the answers were correct and complete; and who had supplied the energy that made things "go." Under these circumstances, could it be expected that these children, in their teacher's absence, would exhibit these same qualities? Hardly. One does not learn to make an independent plan, to show resourcefulness, to carry responsibility, and to supply motive for effort—in brief, to take the initiative—by having some one else perform these tasks for one. In other words, dependence is not the preparation for independence. Indeed, great skill on the part of a teacher in these respects almost precludes such skill on the part of pupils. If allowed prominence year after year, it so undermines self- reliance that one's helplessness when alone is greatly increased. The children of the geography class had had nearly five years of training in leaning on some one else, so that it was extremely difficult to make them stand alone. They were like common soldiers especially trained to obey their officers, yet expected to maintain their former efficiency when suddenly left without officers. They were even more helpless in the school-room, in the presence of a leader, than outside.

By overlooking the difference between studying with a leader and alone, therefore, the teacher overlooks initiative, and in consequence she not only fails to develop that power, but she may easily undermine it by accustoming pupils to dependence upon her. Here is one of the reasons why young people have not been learning to study properly by themselves.

2. Some of the factors of study have also been overlooked by teachers. (1) Examples.

A second reason is that some of the factors of study themselves have long been neglected or overlooked by teachers, as was stated in a general way in Chapter I. It is not customary, for example, for teachers to set up specific objects in their instruction, which shall furnish motive and be guides in study. Indeed, it is rare except among some primary teachers. While the supplementing of text is somewhat common in some subjects, such as literature, any clear notion as to what should be understood by thoroughness is rare indeed; and consequently the whole matter of relative values and of organization is poorly comprehended. Children, and even older students, are not infrequently reprimanded for presuming to judge the merits of subject- matter, a fact that plainly indicates how little the importance of passing on the general worth of ideas is appreciated. Manual training and a few kindred branches recognize the actual using of ideas as their endpoint; but no one will assert that they are regarded as types of other subjects in that respect. Any one will admit that special provision for the development of a tentative attitude toward facts is very exceptional; and students are so commonly submerged by their studies, that there is hardly need to affirm that conscious provision for the preservation and development of individuality is rare. Memorizing is the only universally recognized factor in study; and the supplementing of the author ranks next to it. Whether, aside from these two, any or all of the other factors receive attention, depends upon the individual teacher; as a rule they are sadly neglected, or omitted outright from consideration.

This being true, it is uncommon for students to carry their study through the three or four stages necessary in the proper assimilation of knowledge (see p. 203), because these stages are accomplished only by doing the work involved in these several factors. Very little knowledge, for instance, is carried over into habit, the fourth stage. The four fundamental operations in arithmetic and a few facts in composition and grammar are shining exceptions. Very few teachers have ever even asked themselves what portions of their different subjects of instruction should result in habits; whatever habits become actually established, therefore, are a matter of accident rather than of intelligent planning by teachers. Every student reaches the third stage of assimilation with some of his knowledge; that is, he overhauls it until it is translated into his own experience. But what a small proportion of all that he learns becomes welded to him, by the warmth of his feeling for it, so that he forgets where it was obtained and feels it to be his own! Almost any college student can name whole courses that he pursued, to which he never warmed up appreciably.

How small this amount is, is suggested by the small quantity that is carried even through the second stage, where the pupil or student boldly subordinates both author and teacher to himself and asks what profit he is getting; where he casts aside as non-essential much of what is presented, and centers his attention on what seems of real value to him, to weigh and perhaps reorganize it. Many a student never consciously reaches this stage, and might be afraid to let his teacher know the fact if he did. Certainly many a teacher would regard any exercise of choice by the student, in the subject-matter assigned, as an act of impertinence. Evidently most study does not carry assimilation beyond the first stage, in which the crude materials of knowledge are merely collected. And this not because young people are lazy and disobedient, but because they are practically taught to stop there by their teachers. They tell the truth when, recalling practice, they almost universally declare that studying is mainly memorizing; and Helen Keller's complaint that she had to study so much that she did not have time to think, expresses a very common experience.

Even if there were no difficulty in regard to initiative, therefore, proper methods of study could not be acquired through imitation, because instruction does not set up a model of study that is worthy of imitation. Beyond doubt, the method of instruction would duplicate the method of study if each were right, and thus an example might be put before the student for him to follow. But there is no such example at present, and while students are upbraided for not studying properly, they are furnished no means of learning the right way.

(2) Why the factors in study have been so neglected by teachers.

The reason for this strange neglect of the factors in study is probably due principally to the exaggerated importance of the teacher. Believing in the maxim "As is the teacher, so is the school," we have placed the center of gravity of the school in the teacher. "The tendency of the (normal) training school," says President Millis, "is to make the teacher self-conscious, concerned about her own performance, about whether she did this or that in the approved way, whether her voice was properly modulated, whether she utilized illustrative and supplementary material in due proportion, whether she followed copy faithfully, whether she got standardized results. The tendency of supervision is to produce the same attitude of the teacher. The success of the teacher is graded on her scholarship, her culture, her standardized attainments, her questioning, her care of the property, her attitude toward the community and the system, her sympathy with the supervisor's notions—in short, her pedagogical ability, which is now made a large factor in determining her ration of bread and butter, is measured by her performance and her personal charms." [Footnote: President W.A. Millis, Training Pupils in the Art of Study, The Educator-Journal, Oct., 1908.] Books dealing with education show the same trend. There are hundreds of volumes on method; but they almost invariably tell about what the teacher should do, that is, they center in the teacher, not in the pupil. No wonder that teachers come to regard themselves as "the whole thing," and sometimes act as though educational institutions existed principally for their benefit.

This exaggeration of the teacher's function has led the teacher habitually to picture the learner in the presence of a helper; and with that thought, it has hardly seemed necessary to ask whether or not the learner should set up specific aims as guiding motives in study; the teacher would furnish those herself in class, and perhaps project her influence outside overnight by threats if required. It has hardly seemed necessary to inquire how the learner would know when his work was finished, or to what extent he should pass judgment on thoughts presented, for her questions and other tests would insure proper thoroughness, and her presence would check unfitting boldness in judging. It has hardly seemed necessary to consider how far he should proceed in the mastery of a topic, or how he should avoid being dogmatic, for she would let him know when the endpoint was reached—if he did not stop too soon of his own accord—and she would reprove too positive an attitude. Finally, it has hardly seemed necessary to enumerate the various ways in which he might protect his individuality, because such protection has always been regarded as one of the teacher's prominent duties, and she would offer it as occasion demanded. Thus, with aid for the pupil always near at hand, the need of careful investigation into the problems of private study and how they should be met has not been felt by teachers to be pressing.

But the teacher herself has been at least something of a student while teaching; and she may have made an extensive study of the learning process as treated under apperception, attention, induction, and deduction, interest, etc. How, then, has she escaped a close acquaintance with the principal factors in study? The answer is that as a teacher she has always thought of herself as giving aid, and has never felt the need of examining into her own method of study. Why should she, if she has never been conscious of any particular weakness in that respect? In short, she has been too much absorbed in herself to analyze the problems of independent study to be undertaken by her pupils, and yet not enough absorbed in herself to investigate her own study. Her psychology and pedagogy have not been valueless by any means; but, lacking the imagination to picture her pupils at work alone, and the sympathy to feel their confusion at such times, she has not been prompted to make an examination of the requirements they should meet when separated from her. Like many persons in other fields, she has been too much interested in the results to consider the process itself. "She" in this case represents high-school and college teachers even more than those in the grades. This, at least in part, explains why the method of individual study has been so neglected.

Changes necessary before young people will learn how to study. 1. Placing the center of gravity of the school in the learner.

The first change to be made, in order that young people may learn how to study, is to place the center of gravity of the school where it belongs—in the learner. The great question of method, then, becomes, How shall one learn? Not, first of all, with the aid of the teacher, but alone. What are the main tasks that should be performed in private study, and how should they be accomplished? These questions give the right point of view by centering attention in the pupil, and for that reason they are the first questions that teachers and books on method should consider. Every one will commend the insight of the mother who said to an instructor, "If you will teach my boy how to prepare his lessons, I will attend to his reciting." If lessons are properly prepared, the testing of knowledge will be simple.

The problem of independent study having reached some solution, how to come to the aid of the independent student, or how to impart knowledge, follows as a narrower and subordinate question. If the former has been adequately treated, the latter will introduce few new psychological points, because a full treatment of method of study will require a careful consideration of apperception, induction and deduction, interest, association of ideas, attention, etc. Above all, it will give a new conception of the meaning and scope of self- activity. Teaching will then call mainly for a review of such topics, although from a different and very important view-point.

2. Modifying the subject-matter of the recitation.

Method of study will then become a large subject for regular instruction. Even in the kindergarten and the first years of school it will receive some attention, for that is the time when children begin to acquire good mental habits or to fall into pernicious ones. Without making so young pupils fully conscious that they are learning to study, the teacher will lead them to move their eyes rapidly over the printed page, so as to read simple stories quickly in silence, and with good expression orally. This is already done by good teachers. She will accustom them to responsibility for discovering the bearings of observations in nature-study, of stories, work in color, etc., on their home lives, and thus pave the way for collecting knowledge under guidance of definite aims. She will cultivate in them the power to fill out the author's picture, until situations are more vividly seen and felt than now. She will require them to think and talk more sharply by points, and to use judgment in neglecting really unimportant details, training their consciences to allow such neglect, if such training is needed. She will encourage them to pass judgment on the merits of facts that they learn, while influencing them not to feel too sure. She will see that they do whatever thinking is to be done on poems and other matter that is to be memorized before the memorizing itself is undertaken, so that the important habit of memorizing through thought, rather than without it, shall begin to be firmly fixed. She will lead them to understand that they are not through with the study of topics until the ideas have been used in some way, perhaps many times. And, particularly, she will put forth effort to keep them natural in whatever they do and say, reasonably contented with their abilities, and self-reliant. While most of such instruction will be incidental, a portion of many a recitation will be directly occupied in this way.

By the time the fifth year of school has been reached the principal facts concerning each of the prominent factors of study can be talked about freely, as so much definitely understood knowledge, and the children can be expected to apply them in their various studies. Many a whole recitation can be spent in supplementing authors' statements, in determining principal thoughts, and in doing many other things suggested in the preceding pages, the teacher directly emphasizing such things as essential parts of proper study, and requiring them in the preparation of lessons. Many a whole recitation, also, may be occupied in discussing how lessons have been prepared, the teacher not seldom presenting her own way in detail and allowing her pupils to compare theirs with it. Abstract theory about method of study will thus be avoided.

Perhaps, most of all, the teacher will fix upon the second stage of study (p. 204) as the crucial point in method, in which the children select what seems of real value to them and let the rest go. Of course they will often err, and then it will devolve upon the teacher to show the value of what they have rejected. If she cannot do that, either her mind or the curriculum will need to be improved. While this seems a grave responsibility to place upon pupils of the elementary school, It must be remembered that they should know how to study by the time they complete that course; and they cannot possibly learn how, without dealing boldly with values,—the values of facts in comparison with one another, or relative values, and their values to the self, or general values. We have long wanted young people to know how to study, without allowing them choice among ideas, that is, without placing them in the conditions that would permit it. The fact that during the later years of the elementary school children must choose almost daily outside of school between good and bad literature as presented in books, periodicals, and newspapers, and that they actually select and reject freely in their own reading, shows how normal it is to do such work in school, and how important it is to make it prominent.

Method of study will then have precedence over other aims of the school, even ranking above the acquisition of other knowledge. Possibly as much as one-fourth of all the school time might be devoted primarily to this problem, although within that period much subject- matter in the studies would also be mastered.

While children completing the curriculum of the elementary school might then be well enough acquainted with the general principles of study, in their practical applications, to stop the customary complaints of teachers and parents in that regard, method of study would still be far from mastered. For, besides the general principles, there are special principles peculiar to each branch of knowledge, just as there are both general and special methods of teaching. Proper study of arithmetic, for example, does not fully include the method of studying algebra, to say nothing of grammar; neither does the method in algebra duplicate that in geometry; nor the method in English, that in Latin; nor the method in Latin that in French. As each new branch is begun, therefore, two or three weeks might need to be spent primarily in considering how it should be studied, and now and then, later, an hour should be occupied in the same way.

Topics in learning to study that are too broad for the limits of any particular branch would need to be taught from time to time. For instance, the use of the table of contents, or of the index of a book, of the library catalogue, of encyclopedias and other reference works, should become familiar in the elementary school, as well as some facts about taking and preserving notes. In high school and college further systematic instruction would be needed on the finding of articles and books treating of certain topics, on the keeping of notes, possibly to the extent of establishing a card catalogue for them, and on the general use of a library. Some attention to methods of study would be in place, therefore, even in college.

On the whole, the content of the regular school period would be considerably modified. Study periods, both supervised and independent, devoted either to method of study or to subject-matter, would be far more common; and, while the reproduction of facts would still be necessary, it need not be the dominant feature of the school; for improved methods of study, or better thinking, would render much of the mere testing of the presence of facts, such as we now have, superfluous. Study periods, or, preferably, thinking periods, as the name in the regular school program, would then be recognized as more fitting than recitation; the latter is a belittling name.

3. Modifying the method of the recitation.

Finally, in order that initiative, good judgment, and even skill, may be acquired in applying the principles of study, young people must do a much larger part of the work in class than has been customary. President Millis's statements are again eminently sound, when he declares: "It is what the pupil can do, not what the teacher can do, that counts. He may be fascinated by the brilliant performances of his teacher, he may be pulled and pushed about under a skillful cross- examination, he may manipulate apparatus, he may see the wheels go round and round, and come out of it all with little actual gain of power to do things for himself or for others. There is more than a little danger that we have carried the refinements of teaching to the extreme of defeating its proper ends....A college professor of my acquaintance was criticised by a student for carrying the ball too much in class! No coach ever built up a winning team by carrying the ball himself. The pupil must be active. He must carry the ball. He must ask and answer questions. He must make as well as solve problems. He must be in the game himself, if he is to learn to play the game. He must be independently productive. He must learn to do things for himself, in a way which he has adopted for himself." [Footnote: Ibid]

Children and older students, therefore, must become accustomed to taking the initiative and doing the other work of study in class, if they are to do these things outside.

One day when reading Hawthorne's story of The Gorgon's Head with a fourth-year class, the writer stopped at an interesting point and asked, "Do you ever stop to talk over what you read? Or do you always 'go on' and 'keep going on'?" "We always go right on," replied several. "We sometimes stop," said a few, among whom was Eddie. "Very well," said I, "let us stop here a moment to talk. What have you to say, Eddie?" "O, we don't talk; the teacher does the talking," said he, with a most nonchalant air. What likelihood was there that that class, after their four years of school training, would show a fair degree of independence in their study of literature, if their teacher were suddenly struck dumb?

It is a matter of rather frequent remark that children accustomed to lively participation in class discussion under a skillful teacher too often experience a disappointing relapse the moment the teacher absents herself. The peculiar stimulus being gone, they not only fail to rise to the occasion by conceiving such questions as she might ask; but even after the questions are put, they are overcome by a strange mental lassitude and make little response. The stimulus to work must come from within rather than from without, if one's state is to be healthy.

Furthermore, just as the children must do a larger part of the work in class, the teacher must do less. One follows as a consequence of the other. The old-fashioned country school neglected its pupils so much that knowledge was poorly digested. The modern school very naturally proposes to correct that evil. Accordingly, the "good teacher" of to- day lives very close to her children. In many a school she does not leave them to themselves five minutes in a whole day. With her keen eye she detects their very state of mind, and by the sharpest of questions reveals their slightest error. As a result, their knowledge is much more thorough than it used to be, more of it is acquired, and it is acquired with less effort.

But, meanwhile, new evils have crept in. The teacher, in spite of her better preparation, is working harder than ever, much too hard. She does more thinking in class than any one of her pupils, and more talking than all of them put together. At the same time, she is undermining their independence. The old-fashioned school, by leaving the pupil alone a good share of the time, threw him upon his own resources enough to develop a fair degree of self-reliance. It possessed the merit at least of not preventing the exercise of independence. The modern school, by providing a helper close at hand every moment, tends in the opposite direction. The gain on the whole is questionable.

The good of the old must be preserved while the added good of the new is realized. The wise teacher of the future, therefore, will do more for her children than lead them to learn rapidly and thoroughly; she will endeavor to develop their self-reliance and judgment in study and in other matters just as far as possible. For this end she will, more often than at present, plan to act merely as chairman of discussion, rather than as leader of it and an active participant in it. She will induce her pupils to study aloud before her, particularly to take such initial steps as lie plainly within their power. She will offer suggestions from time to time, but not to the extent of depriving them of responsibility for determining the main questions and answering them. The longer she instructs a class, the less talking she will do, because they, having grown more resourceful and independent, will be able to do it themselves, it being one of her objects to show them how they can get along without her. She will prove most useful when she is least needed. But her presence will still be necessary, for, while she will no longer have to prod them every moment by questions, her testing will always be important, and her greater maturity of knowledge will render her suggestions and criticisms always valuable.

The art of teaching will then consist not only in ability to present ideas but also in ability to keep still. That is by no means a small task. Under many circumstances it is not difficult to hold one's tongue. But when a teacher is confronted by a class in which every one has the duty of saying something, it is either painful or ridiculous if no one says anything. It is then that the poor teacher is obliged to talk much in order to "keep things going." The really good teacher is the one who understands the secret of delegating responsibility to her pupils, and not the least of her rewards is the fact that she is allowed to rest her voice.

Home study

The first condition to be met in regard to home study is to assign only such work as the pupils are known by the teacher to be able to do rightly, and without too great physical strain. With the attention to method of study that has been urged, this condition can be easily met. That means, however, that many a topic cannot be assigned for the home as it is approached, for it will first require some consideration at school. Thus the home study of a lesson will very often follow rather than precede its study at school.

The assignment of lessons merely by pages is now often decried, and justly, because it leaves the child so utterly without a guide as to method. But, when method of study has been properly taught, such an assignment would often be fitting. The responsibility would then fall upon the pupil of determining what it was good for, of selecting and reorganizing the principal parts, etc.; but he could meet that responsibility because he would understand what things he was to do and would know how to do them.

Parents should not be expected to take a hand in teaching their children how to study, for that is altogether too large a task, and involves too much special preparation. If they observe that a child does not know how, they would better leave him alone, directing him to apply to his teacher for instruction. Parents are more bent upon obtaining results and getting rid of their children—so far as school work is concerned—than are teachers, so that the duties assigned to them should be few and of a simple character.

There are some important things for parents to do, however. They should take pains to provide proper physical surroundings for home study, including quiet, proper light and temperature. They should exert an influence in the direction of regular hours, of a short period of relaxation immediately before and after meals and before bedtime, and of some variety of occupation during the longer periods of study, so that fatigue may be avoided. In addition, they should stimulate their children by bringing pressure to bear on the lazy ones, by "hearing lessons" now and then, and, above all, by asking questions that call for a review of facts as well as for their use in conversation. They may give some help; but, if they do, they should by all means avoid falling into disputes about method. The child is right in preferring to do a thing in the teacher's way, for it is to the teacher that he is finally responsible; and parents ought to be broad enough to try to follow the teacher's plan. They can help their children most by showing concern for them, really inspecting their written work instead of merely pretending to, and otherwise manifesting genuine interest in their tasks.

Are children capable of the initiative necessary for independent study?

Two questions remain to be considered, the first of which pertains to initiative. If independent study requires that one practically duplicate the work of the teacher by teaching one's self, can children in the elementary school be expected to study alone, or can they even be trained to it? Much power of initiative is rare even among adults. Much of the instruction of teachers themselves is poor owing to a lack of independent thinking. What success, then, can come to children when they are sent off to study their lessons in private?

In reply, it is safe to say that they can be so trained, provided they have some native capacity for self-reliance that can be used as a basis for such training. And that they have such capacity can scarcely be questioned. In their choice and leadership of games and other play; in their plans for constructive work; in their serious tasks set by themselves at home; in their selection of topics for conversation and even in the turns that their remarks take, children plainly show power of initiative.

Intelligent parents recognize this fact, and they not infrequently take successful measures to cultivate this power. Kindergartners also recognize it. Indeed, they expect children who are little more than infants to propose suitable tasks, together with the method of their execution, in the kindergarten, and to carry the responsibility of leadership in the conversation of the "circle" and in the games. The resourcefulness of a ten-year-old boy was recently suggested in a certain class in composition. The subject that they were writing on was Mining in the Far West, and spelling was a serious obstacle for one youth, as it was for most of his mates. Finally, with apparent innocence, he asked his teacher if he might not describe his experiences as a miner in the miner's own dialect. On receiving her consent he gloried in his freedom by misspelling nearly every word that he used.

Evidently, latent power of self-direction is one of the "native tendencies" of childhood. The statement may be ventured, also, that while the field of experience of children is very different from that of adults, the exercise of initiative within that field is as common among children as it is among adults within their own field.

There is, therefore, a good basis in children for assuming the initiative. But it is only a basis. Unless this native tendency toward self-direction is carefully developed in connection with the studies in school, from year to year, it will of course prove inadequate to the demands of proper study. And that very often happens. In spite of the fact that schools exist for the sake of education, there is many a school whose pupils show a peculiar "school helplessness"; that is, they are capable of less initiative in connection with their school tasks than they commonly exhibit in the accomplishment of other tasks. In its quest for knowledge the school may thus easily prove inferior to the street and the average home in the development of this extremely valuable power.

On the other hand, if children's native capacity for taking initiative has been carefully developed, well-selected subjects of study need make no excessive demands upon them. The topics to be considered will be found so nearly within their experience that their ability to study alone will be taxed only to a normal degree. Children, therefore, can be expected to exercise the initiative that is necessary for independent study from year to year, provided their teachers from year to year do their duty in developing that power.

Is there time for teaching how to study?

Finally, even though children be capable of learning to study alone, is there time for such instruction, particularly if it is to be the primary object throughout possibly a quarter of the elementary-school time, and during a considerable time later? Is not the curriculum already full enough, indeed full to completion? While it is true that it has begun to be reduced by the selection of only such matter as bears a plain relation to our lives, as can be understood by the learner, and as constitutes some part of a large topic, when such reduction has been completed there may still remain twice as much as ought to be taught. Shall we, then, even while making these eliminations, make additions that may more than equal them?

The addition here proposed is not so alarming. For a long time some of our university departments of physics have aimed rather to teach the scientific method in laboratory investigations than to impart a knowledge of the facts in physics; and some of our departments of practical politics have been more concerned about the method of investigating political problems than about the conclusions reached concerning them. In such cases the acceptance of proper method as the primary purpose has not precluded the acquisition of much subject- matter, for the method has been taught through the subject-matter. The same would hold in teaching proper method of study.

But, aside from that, attention to proper method of study will result in greatly reducing, rather than in increasing, the work of both teacher and pupil, and in two ways.

First, it will reduce the quantity of subject-matter. It is strange that, in spite of the hue and cry of teachers and superintendents against overcrowding in the elementary school, they are really the ones who make out the course of study, and there are no persons back of them requiring them to include a large amount. Beyond a minimum portion of the three R's, spelling, and geography, which are required by society, almost anything and everything could be omitted if they greatly desired it. But they have forced young people to study in much the same way as they themselves visit European countries, straining to get a bird's-eye view of everything, and settling on nothing long enough to know it intimately and to enjoy it deeply. They justify Herbert Spencer's remark to the effect that he would have known no more than a great many other persons, if he had read as many books as they had.

The difficulty has been that teachers, with the center of gravity of the school within themselves, have lacked a standard for determining their pupils' normal rate of advance. The curriculum that they have outlined has been merely the sum of those things that they have deemed good, that they would like to have the children know; and the children have been set to work to consume all these good things, just like gourmands.

With the center of gravity in the child, however, and with the proper method of study in the lead, the learner's real power of assimilation becomes the standard for his rate of advance. And, since assimilation is a very slow process, including much discrimination among ideas as well as their use, comparatively few topics can be undertaken. Appreciation of proper study then makes extensive eliminations so evidently necessary that they become compulsory. So long as we did not look closely at the minds of children, and they seemed to thrive physically, we have lacked proof that they were surfeiting; attention to study reveals the fact too plainly for it to be ignored.

It is not merely the teacher, either, that will be emboldened to cast aside subject-matter. The pupil himself, under the influence of specific purposes, a clear notion of thoroughness, and his own conception of values, will quickly pass over many of the facts that are assigned in his lessons. If he pays little attention to a full half of any school text that possesses literary merit, he will probably not be far in the wrong. For perspective is essential in all presentation of thought, and there are usually as many things in the background, necessary and yet to be ignored, as there are in the foreground.

Besides reducing the amount of matter to be studied, proper method of studying will further relieve both teacher and pupil from overwork by eliminating much friction in the process of study. The want of axle grease on a wagon does not increase the actual weight of a ton of coal, but it makes the pulling a lot harder; likewise, awkward methods of study do not increase the curriculum in fact, but they do in effect, by making progress slower and more taxing. There are hosts of young people who are willing and are trying to be studious, who do not know how. They, as well as the lazy ones, have to be dragged along by their teachers, and it is this dragging more than the thinking that exhausts them all. It is the discouragement resulting from this condition that drives many pupils out of school and many teachers into matrimony. While numerous things compete with it as a source of waste in education, unnecessary friction in method of study is probably the greatest source of waste; and it is as foolish to ignore the fact longer as it would be for a manufacturer to refuse to oil and repair his machinery.

There is no question, therefore, about the advisability of taking time to teach proper method of study. In spite of helpful reductions in the curriculum from other sources, we must look to proper method of study as the principal means by which work for both the teacher and the pupil will be made lighter, more effective, and more enjoyable.


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