Allison Ware

THE RELATION OF THE HIGH SCHOOL TO THE NORMAL

SCHOOL

ALLISON WARE, PRESIDENT, STATE NORMAL SCHOOL, CHICO, CAL.

In considering the relations of the high school to the normal school, I shall have in mind the type of normal school that sets the following standards: (1) its admission basis is high-school graduation; (2) it maintains a minimum course of two years for elementary teachers; (3) this course trains for service in all grades and subjects; (4) it seeks recognition as a strictly professional school designed solely for the efficient training of teachers.

Two fields of normal-school work are distinctive, and the normal schools cannot shift responsibility for them upon any other institution. These are the development of professional skill and the establishment of professional ideals. But in the field of academic knowledge of subject-matter, particularly in so far as that subject-matter consists of elementary grammar, arithmetic, history, spelling, writing, and the rest, there are certain demands that the normal school may justly make upon other institutions.

One hope, then, that we have for a better normal-school product is that ultimately we may get as candidates for training those whose academic preparation is already strong enough to sustain the weight of professional training. In plain terms, one of the most pressing problems of normal school efficiency is this: What may be done to improve for our purpose the students that we receive from the high school ?

In California, 16 per cent of the high-school graduates enter normal school and 29 per cent the university. The latest figures from the commissioner of education show a similar ratio thruout the land. Upon this basis, the normal school should have at least half as much to say as the university. Consider the matter from another angle. Approximately only 5 per cent of all students who enroll in high schools later go to college or the university (in California 10 per cent), and yet the course of study of all has been made in the alleged interest of this small fraction. That is to say, the university requirements, founded upon an organized compulsion so strong that it has not been necessary for it to give reasons, has set the training not only of the 5 per cent but of the 95 per cent as well.

A different situation confronts us. If the preparation we ask were a peculiar thing to be used only in normal schools, it would be iniquity for us to demand it at the expense of life-preparation. But as it includes the staple world-used and world-demanded things, vital in any walk of life, our failure to demand it must be not only our loss but the world’s loss as well. Every day that we neglect to urge our claim upon the high school for a sound elementary education we are recreant, not merely to our own needs, but to the educational needs of all the people.

I would not be thought in this connection to be in an attitude unfriendly toward or harshly critical of the American high school, but, without discussion or comment, I simply state here as a fact demonstrated by every survey and test that has been made that the average high-school graduate is not prepared to pass fair tests demanding a standard of world-efficiency in the common-school essentials. Your schools and mine have proved it again and again. In fact, the actual entrance conditions enforced by normal schools generally recognize the present impossibility of demanding high standards in the subjects that most count. In the Wisconsin survey, 125 out of 192 normal-school instructors reported their students as very weak in the fundamentals of the common schools. In answer to strictly elementary questions set by the survey commission the average grade of high-school graduates was:

Arithmetic—65 per cent History—60 per cent
Grammar—67 per cent Geography—56 per cent

General Information—57 per cent

I believe these results are at least as good as and probably better than the national average.

Before I outline in brief the details of the plan that I propose as a constructive remedy for this situation, let me call your attention to the scheme now in general use in normal schools as a makeshift for the improvement of the elementary education of our students.

Roundly speaking, one-fourth to one-half of our time is spent in elementary patchwork and repair. I know of only one normal school that does not set aside at least one-fourth of its course for elementary reviews. In that school an elaborate series of tests is given to entering students and those who are deficient in any respect are remanded without credit to courses of study and reading and are thereafter retested. Substantial])’, this school has increased the burden of normal-school work one-third, but it has maintained at the same time a two-year course. Much of this academic review is inevitable, and much is strictly professional in its character. Such parts we should not seek to fasten upon high schools. We should not seek to shift upon any other institution the necessary study of emphasis and arrangement of subject-matter and its division into lesson units, for these are professional problems, the problems of teachers.

The courses that I now refer to, however, we should resent as an intrusion into normal-school work. Their presence there is a reflection upon every part of the public-school system, for they deal with elementary knowledge of common-school subjects.

Consider the subject of English. What we need in our students and what the world’s culture demands of all is, first, an intelligent and interested appreciation of the durable things that have been written in prose and verse. A true appreciation of the virile literature of life is what we want, and to get it the content must be built up of those things that still serve to shape the ideals and move the hearts of men.

Such results in literature as we desire cannot be secured by the method of formal analysis such as has been introduced in high-school classes in imitation of the method of advanced research scholars in English. Methods of post-graduate research in a university that may have high potential value there, become mere pedantry in the high school, a reproach to those who use them, and an injustice to every student upon whom they are visited. I would see the normal schools urge a four-year course in literature: liberal, modern, world-serving, founded upon appreciation, and resulting in sound reading tastes and habits. But this is not enough. The English class should be charged justly and inflexibly with handing on unimpaired the elements of all allied English branches.

The world still demands that people of good intelligence should be able to spell commonly written words. It still demands that everyone shall write a legible hand. It still requires, at least among those who claim a fair standard of culture, the use of correct oral English. It still prizes the ability to write sentences in the English language with the proper attention to persons, number, case, subject, predicate, capital letters, and periods. In addition to these, the schools demand an elementary understanding of that system of rules, classifications, and language relationships known and commonly studied under the name of grammar.

The business world will join with us in the demand for accuracy in the simpler operations of arithmetic.

In history, we need in our students what the world requires of every intelligent man, namely, a knowledge of the main lines of the story of human progress, with an understanding of the principal forces that have been involved, and with an appreciation of the great names and episodes with which it has been marked. Particularly do they need to know the main lines of our nation’s growth; and most of all they need a knowledge of the world as it is today: its institutions, its enterprises, its social, economic, and political problems. They need, too, a dynamic national civics, a civics that has to do with active citizenship, not unacquainted with the realities that are about us.

In science, we would ask for an understanding of the great principles that rule the natural universe, such as evolution, conservation of energy, gravitation, indestructibility of matter, geologic change, and all the mighty ways in which the cosmic energy ebbs and flows thru its varied manifestations. In one field of science peculiarly does the teacher need the training that no one can safely be without. I refer to that department that has to do with hygiene and health and the physical care of the body. We have good high schools in this state, according to the standards of university preparation, but there is not one of them that I know of in which it is necessary for a graduate to know anything about the care of his own body and the defense of his neighborhood against disease.

Some definite preparation, also, is needed for life no less than for work in the classroom concerning the ways of other lands and other people. Whether it be called descriptive geography, current events, or modern history, the horizon of common culture has been pushed back to include the whole world and we can count no one well informed who is ignorant of the circumstances under which other races live, the problems which affect them, and their relations to us.

As long as drawing is a required subject in the elementary schools, teachers must know how to draw. I can see no reason why we should not expect a student who has had a year of high-school free-hand drawing and color work to be as skillful in it as he would have been had he, instead of the high-school work, taken one-half a year of work in a normal school. We need to this end, however, an intelligent minimum standard.

In music, the situation at present is chaotic. In the normal schools and in the world as well, the musical education of our people is lacking today, not so much because music has not been taught, as because it has not been taught upon any standardized plan. If this assemblage should go no farther than to outline the purpose and content of a useful high-school course in music, it would have justified all the time and energy that has gone into its making.

The following outline, taken from a recently published normal-school catalog, seems to me to state in plain English a sensible standard for such a course:

Imitation: To repeat accurately the singing of any ordinary phrase of grammar school songs.

Use of voice: (a) to sing in original key for at least sixteen measures; (6) to fed degrees of emphasis and contrast, and to express them by changing voice quality; (c) to sing primary-school songs with taste.

Rhythm: (a) to discover the measure of music played upon the piano; (b) to locate primary stress; (c) to tap correctly notes used one to a beat, then beats divided by two, three, and four.

Melody: (a) to recognize common melodies sung without words; (6) to find the keynote, its third and its fifth, of simple songs sung by teacher or the class; (c) to distinguish between major and minor tonality; (d) to read from the staff melodies in one key selected from any textbook of common use in third primary grade; (e) to apply the syllables do, re, me, fa, sol, la, ti in singing a simple melody at first hearing.

The results of this work are tested solely by individual answers, expressed by singing, reading, writing, and the expression of musical judgments. No literary product, i. e., definitions, theory, history of music, or second-hand information, is of the slightest value if offered as a substitute for personal power.

Students who prove, by test, that they have qualified to meet the standards required for the completion of this course will be given credit for the work and will be excused from taking it. It is very much to the advantage of high-school students who expect to attend this normal school to take work that will cover the simple essentials of this preparatory course.

If I have been at all successful in my presentation of the foregoing facts, I have made at least one point, namely, that there is a fund of preparation, vital for the welfare of the elementary teacher and vital to the educational welfare of every individual, which should be the product of the schools of general training; that upon this product the normal school should expect to build; that it is our duty to stand for the increased efficiency and service of all educational institutions of general training in a demand for this result. If this point be clear and acceptable, then as practical men the question before us is: How can we get the high school to perfect this work that should stand as foundation training for teacher work and at the same time that serves as a genuine cultural foundation for all the work and play of life ?

First of all, we can be good-natured about it. We should proceed, not as faultfinders, but as fellow-workers interested in a common problem. Secondly, let those of us who maintain preparatory departments of our own set model standards of preparation and results in these lines. Thirdly, let us in all ways, jointly and severally, urge model courses of study upon high schools thruout the land. Each catalog, each bulletin or publication, all public utterances that we send out or control should set forth the normal school’s standards, which are at the same time the world’s normal standards and demands. Fourthly, let us, with the courage of our convictions and acting in line with the straight logic of the situation, frankly offer advanced standing to anyone who enters our doors with knowledge that now must be secured as part of the normal-school required work. That is to say, if we teach grammar, just plain academic English grammar, and give a half-unit of normal credit for it, and if we find that nine-tenths of our beginners must take it in order to learn later to teach grammar, it seems to be perfectly just and fair for us to give the same half-unit of credit to anyone who enters the normal school already possessed of the particular preparation that the normal-school grammar course is designed to give. Such a principle, properly applied, would place not less than two and one-half units of the standard twenty-unit two-year normal-school course in the realm of work that might be done in any sound high-school course.

That the relegation of such preparatory work to the schools of general training will benefit normal schools, setting them free to do work strictly professional, there is no doubt. That it will benefit the high school, defining for it true standards of living culture, there is no question. It will prove a force to give to all the graduates of high schools a better preparation for life and incidentally for the work of the teacher.

Some may say that such an offer of advanced standing would be a lowering of the normal-school standards, but such is not the case. If we could thus in a few years establish a new standard of academic fitness for our matriculants, the time would soon be ripe for a further step forward. That is to say, when 50 per cent of those who enter normal schools show themselves to be prepared in the different subjects substantially as outlined, then these subjects may be made at once the minimum standard for matriculation into a two-year course without any advanced standing at all. In such an event, those who might thereafter enter without such preparation would be required to make up such deficiency by outside study or by special work in classes organized for the purpose, but without normal-school credit.

I have proposed this method of offering advanced standing for academic work properly done in high school, not as a permanent status of the whole matter, but as a plan to start the introduction and emphasis of such work in the secondary school. Let us give as much credit for work of this sort done before students enter normal school as we now give to them after they enter.

In regard to special credentials in manual training, domestic science, agriculture, music, and art, and for all forms of departmental work, we may establish even more advantageous relations with the high schools. In training teachers for these special fields a special underpinning of knowledge is required. As a result, much of our special training is frankly academic, of exactly the sort that is given in high schools and colleges.

If we compare the cases of the academically prepared and unprepared special students, we find that the latter greatly complicate our problem. The prepared student is already well taught in the subject he desires to teach. The unprepared teacher has to make a hurried cram of it. The prepared teacher may be given professional problems and technical training from the moment he takes up the normal work. The unprepared a year oi academic work ahead substantially no more like real professional training than any of the other general work he may have taken. The prepared student may be made ready for successful work in a year. It may take two years to get the other into shape.

In one year we can train into a master teacher in music or French a student who is already master of the subject. But who will undertake in two years or even in three to turn out high-grade teachers in either of these subjects from those who enter without special academic preparation ?

If we know this to be true, and we do, why is it that we still make so much ado over the time element in special training? Schools boast that they have a two- or a three-year course in this or that and laws and rules prescribe our standard in terms of time. Such time standards rigidly enforced often perpetuate to keep out the best prepared. Let us have standards in terms of work done and results secured. In any case, let us freely recognize and encourage academic preparation made elsewhere.

I suggest as a practical means toward this end that we start in by writing all our special diplomas in terms of the actual work done rather than in terms of time spent in the normal school. We should endorse on the back of each diploma a detailed statement of exactly what work, both academic and professional, the holder has done in preparation for his work. Such a course, frankly recognizing worthy academic preparation made in high schools and colleges of general training, will do much to set us free for professional work. It will incidentally save the money, time, and energy that are now being spent in normal schools upon unnecessary duplication of work done in high schools and colleges.

We cannot get results until we know very definitely what we want. The university gets what it wants, no matter how astounding it may be or whether it be what the world wants or not, because it has the sense to make a plain and definite demand. First, then, as a practical proposition, we must frame a reasonable and specific statement of what we need. We must set a standard to which we will all agree and which we will all urge by persuasion, rules, advanced standing, or whatever proper methods are available.

I propose, therefore, that a committee of five be here appointed to outline the basis for a better academic relationship between the normal schools and the high schools; that it state in specific terms the academic preparation that should be demanded for normal-school work; that it consider the best available plans for the establishment of such academic standards; that it secure the widest possible discussion of its findings; and that it report at the next meeting of this Association with recommendations for further action.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not one who believes that all normal schools should be operated with the same program clock. Each should be free to make discoveries. Each should have before it the constant objective to do things better tomorrow than they were done today. At the same time, I will not do my profession the discredit to believe or to say that after a hundred year’s experience in the normal schools of America there is still nothing definitely known or knowable; that there is still no standard, no guideline, no safety zone established beyond the power of any individual or institutional whim of caprice. If this is a working body, can it not now begin to form and enforce some academic standards that will set us free to do the work for which we have been established ? Shall we not earnestly undertake this work that for high schools and normal schools alike lies straight in the path toward better service ?”

Reference Data:

Journal of the Proceedings and Addresses of the Annual Meeting, by National Education Association of the United States, 1915, pages 786-797


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