Monday, June 23, 2014

Excerpts from a 1911 National Education Association conference

The large tome pictured at right is, per the title page, the National Education Association of the United States' Journal of Proceedings and Addresses of the Forty-Ninth Annual Meeting Held at San Francisco, California, July 8-14, 1911.

The 1,172-page volume was published by the NEA and printed by The University of Chicago Press.

So, what was on the NEA's mind 103 years ago, with regard to the education of this nation's youth? Here are some excerpts:

  • Keeping up with the Germans: In an address titled Can We Shorten the Term of Years Without Decreasing Efficiency of Education in American Schools?, Samuel Avery argues that the United States can achieve the same quality of college graduate as European countries, but at the expense of time:
    "If an American boy enters a public school at six, spends eight years in the grades, four years in the high school, four years in the general literary college , and then four years in a medical, law or graduate college, he will be twenty-six years old before his education in the schools is completed. If his college and university work are combined in a six-year course he will be twenty-four years old.

    "I think that no educator in America would make a serious claim that such a young man is better educated, either culturally or professionally, than the German who has taken a course consisting of the gymnasium and the university, losing a year in the army, and graduating at the age of twenty-two. As a matter of fact, I think I am safe in saying that the American at twenty-four is about as well educated as the German at twenty-two, except that the latter has a far better command of his native tongue and of foreign languages."
  • Sunshine and fresh air: In The Kindergarten of the Future, Frank Edson Parlin states: "In the first place, the kindergarten of the future will be true to its name, a garden of children, a place especially adapted to the nurture of children and in charge or those who understand their condition, their needs, and the laws of their growth. If it is to be a garden and not a hothouse, it will generally by out of doors, in the sunlight and open air, among the trees and flowers, associated with the birds and animals, providing healthful conditions for the body, appropriate food for the hungry senses, abundant exercise for the growing muscles, ample scope for the imagination, and unfailing topics for stories and conversation."
  • Labor omnia vincit: In Latin in the Lower Grades (Below the High School), H.C. Nutting argues: "I advocate beginning Latin in the lower grades, not because I believe that the work so undertaken will prove easier and more attractive (tho there is no doubt that it will prove so), but because I am convinced that, on the average, the foundations of Latin can be laid more firmly and securely in the seventh and eighth grades than in an early year of the high-school course. I have not a shred of sympathy for weak-kneed, wishy-washy, compromising methods."
  • Insert your own joke about the NCAA: In The Future of Intercollegiate Athletics in the Western States, P.L. Campbell summarizes his report as follows: "We have passed in the West pretty well beyond professionalism in college athletics, unless possibly it be in the playing of summer baseball; we have eliminated the tramp athlete; thru more rigid rules regulating scholarship and attendance, we have removed 'flunkers' from our college teams, so that the average standing of the university athletes compares favorably with that of any other equally large body of students; we have reduced our schedules in numbers of games; and brought down to a reasonable limit the time a student may lose thru being absent on trips..."
  • I wish I had this teacher: Finally, in What Has Art in the Schools Done to Preserve and Cultivate the Imagination?, May Gearhart ends her speech thusly: "Our pupils like to hear about the fairy with the enchanted green hat in The Blue Bird:
    'Human beings are very odd. Since the death of the fairies they see nothing at all and they never suspect it. Luckily I always carry with me all that is needed to give new light to dimmed eyes ... a dear little, green hat. When you've got that hat on your head ... it's enchanted ... you at once see even the inside of things.'
    Imagination, children, is like an enchanted green hat."

Other topics addressed at the conference included simplified spelling, a plea to include Native Americans in the public school system, teacher salaries, year-round schooling, the efficiency of school janitors and numerous discussions related to hygiene and open-air schools.

Finally, there was a presentation titled Child Protection and the Social Evil. Here's an excerpt:
"So long as the hearts of men are bad, so long as men are the chief offenders, as they are, there is going to be more of less of a residue, even if we carry on a campaign of repression. I say again, in this my impromptu address to you, that the ultimate goal to which we must all point is a religious and moral solution to this question. We may approach the problem from an economic or social point of view. Such an attitude will help. But the final solution will come only in the raising of the public conscience to a certain ideal of morality..."
Did you guess the Social Evil being discussed? It was prostitution.

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