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The Study of Nations—An Experiment


The Bulletin on Social Studies recently published by the National Bureau of Education, and already familiar to readers of THE History TEACHER's MAGAZINE," offers to the teacher of European history much food for thought. Hitherto the special aims in teaching European history have been only vaguely defined. In this report, however, the committee in charge, which bears the rather formidable name of the Committee on Social Studies of the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education of the National Education Association, lays special emphasis on the function of the history of other nations in the schools as an instrument for inculcating an international spirit in distinction from the aim of the study of American history, which is the development of national patriotism. In the words of the report: “One of the conscious purposes of instruction in the history of nations other than our own should be the cultivation of a sympathetic understanding of such nations and their peoples, of an intelligent appreciation of their contributions to civilization and of a just attitude toward them.”

In the furtherance of that aim it has been proposed that one year of the history course in the high school be supplemented by a course called “A Study of Nations,” starting with the present condition of typical modern nations and using the history of each nation as an explanation of its present place in civilization. The hope is expressed that history, used in this way, may “tend to reduce friction in international relations, as such friction often results from popular clamor, born of a lack of understanding of foreign nations,” that it may “help to a truer understanding and appreciation of the foreigners who come to our shores,” and “lead us to be more helpful in our relations with backward peoples.” These suggestions, made by Clarence D. Kingsley, the chairman of the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education, have been further elaborated by him in an article in “School and Society.” ” “The idea should be developed,” Mr. Kingsley says in part, “that every nation has or may have something of worth to contribute to other nations, and to humanity as a whole. . . . This conception of the supplementary value of the dissimilarities of the different nations and peoples, together with the ideal of human brotherhood, which is generally thought of in terms of es

1 For the report in full, see History TEACHER's MAGAZINE, January, 1917. Published also as Bulletin 28 for 1916 of the U. S. Bureau of Education. These suggestions were based, in part, upon the recommendation of Dr. Felix Adler, head and founder of the Ethical Culture School, New York City, that schools and colleges teach the “Science of Nations.”

2 Kingsley, Clarence D., “The Study of Nations: Its Possibilities as a Social Study in High Schools.” “School and Society,” Vol. III, p. 37-41, January 8, 1916.

sential similarity, should do much to establish genuine internationalism, free from sentiment, founded on fact, and actually operative in the affairs of nations.” The proposed course in the “Study of Nations " commended itself to the mind of the writer for several reasons. First, the point of approach from the present day seemed to offer to the beginner in history a more inviting prospect than the traditional mode of procedure. The first pages of the text-books are generally sufficiently uninspiring to deter all but the most ambitious from any further voluntary pursuit of the subject. Only rarely is any attempt made to enlist the interest of the pupil as a means to the effective mobilization of his intellectual forces. The writer once asked a class of beginners why they were going to study history. They replied promptly and unanimously, “Because we have to.” When asked why they supposed the learned men who decide what subjects shall be required for admission to college had included history among the requirements, they were at a loss. Finally two or more ventured the explanation: “Because, if they didn't, there would be no more history teachers.” The incident was a painful revelation. If a subject so full of richness and variety as history offers to the beginner no more alluring vista than an unbroken line of history teachers, clearly a new way of approach must be found. Just now the great war has set the whole adult world to searching the facts of history in the hope of finding explanation of its strange phenomena. Why not use it in the same way to minister to the need of high school pupils? Moreover, this use of current events as an approach to history bids fair to free the teacher from the constant temptation to cheapen history in order to popularize it. So much has been said of the necessity of “making history interesting,” that teachers have resorted to every device in the effort to lighten its traditional burden of dullness. Some have gone into the show business, more or less legitimately. Others have placed their reliance on colored crayon, and have apparently measured the value of their historical instruction by the amount of manual labor they have extracted from the pupils. The proposed course calls for no such artificial stimulus. It meets the pupil at the point of his present interest, and there ministers to his growth, according to the most approved modern pedagogy. The teacher is a guide, not a task master, and his most insidious temptation is removed. The most convincing recommendation for the “Study of Nations" lies in the fact that it promises to meet the social aims of historical study more directly and effectively than the traditional course in modern history. The general aim of all social studies is the stimulation and development in pupils of an enlightened social conscience. The special function of the study of modern history, as indicated by the committee, is to extend the scope of the individual conscience until it includes all humanity in the range of its activities. To this end prejudice must be broken down and an intelligent appreciation of alien peoples developed. In theory all our courses in European history have been supposed to do this automatically. Indeed, many teachers will contend that no reorganization of material is necessary for the purpose. Yet experience has shown in many cases that the old mechanism was clumsy and likely to miss fire. Many a high school pupil can give a very good account of the work of Italian statesmen and thinkers for the making of united Italy without in the least disturbing his conclusion, drawn from observation, that all Italians are bricklayers, and equally without bringing the alien “Dago " within the range of his sympathies. It sometimes seems as if, under our present educational system, the child's mind was divided into three entirely distinct and mutually exclusive compartments, one devoted to Sunday-school, one devoted to day school and one to life. It is a rare child, indeed, that allows any intercommunication between the three. The pupil who reads in the newspaper of a “drive on Jerusalem ’’ looks with amazed incredulity at the teacher who suggests that the unknown city is the familiar Jerusalem of the Sunday-school lesson. In the same way, school and life belong to entirely distinct realms of thought, and none but the most direct methods succeed in establishing the necessary connection between them. The proposed “Study of Nations " is built around the idea that history is an explanation of life and necessary to a comprehension of its meaning. With that understanding the leading nations of Europe are presented in bird's-eye view, and an attempt is made to appreciate and evaluate the peculiar gifts of each to the modern world. If successfully carried out, such a course promises to make a direct appeal to the sympathy and imagination of the class, and to lead them to the conclusion of a little girl in the class in community civics: “We can't tell where our community ends.”

Last year, as an experiment, the work of a class in modern history in the Somerville High School was reorganized to follow approximately the suggestions of the Committee on Social Studies. The accompanying outline for “The Study of Nations " was prepared as a guide. Although purely in the experimental stage, the course proved so full of interesting possibilities that an account of it may be of general interest. The class which was chosen for the experiment was in the third year of the general course. This course provides for community civics the first year, European history to about 1700 the second year, and modern European history the third year. The pupils were already familiar with the methods of historical study and with the methods of community civics. They had had practice in the use of the library and in the handling of historical material. They were intensely interested in the great war, but had already come to realize that they were handicapped in trying to understand it by their ignorance of the nations involved. The war, then, was the natural starting

place, and one by one the warring nations were passed in review. This attempt to interpret the nations of Europe for the comprehension of high school pupils is an audacious undertaking for any one person. It must be understood that the work was purely experimental, and is published as a nucleus for suggestion and improvement. By co-operative effort it is hoped that a really satisfactory outline may be evolved, which will guide and supplement the work of the individual teacher.

As it stands, the work is undoubtedly too extended for a standard course. At this time, however, when all the nations of Europe are in the limelight, it seemed best to satisfy legitimate curiosity even at the expense of thoroughness in treatment. The bibliography, too, is the product of expediency rather than of wisdom. The books mentioned are those which were available for use, not necessarily those best adapted to the purpose.

For several reasons France seemed to afford the best opening to the subject. No other nation, perhaps, has made so wide an appeal to the adult world. Benjamin Franklin voiced a common sentiment when he said that every man has two countries, his own and France. French philosophers and French revolutionists alike have so far dominated the thought of Europe that an understanding of the French people would seem to lay the foundation for an understanding of the rest of Europe. On this theory three months of the year were devoted to the topics on France. As the class had already studied early European history, much of the historical work was review. Beginning with the old regime and the revolution, however, the historical topics were discussed with considerable care. The special topics on French art and handicrafts were prepared with a view to a visit to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. After the reports were made the class visited the Museum, and under the able guidance of the docent were shown many characteristic specimens of French workmanship. This visit rounded up the work on France very satisfactorily, for one girl, at least, who remarked as she left the Museum, “I know I shan't like any other country as well as France.”

As a key to the inner meaning of the story, extracts from George Meredith’s “France, 1870," were used as summaries. This use of the poem and the introduction of Miss Cones’ “Chant of Love for England ” in the following section has been criticized as sentimental. Perhaps it is open to that objection. The motive for their use in this way was to give to the work emotional content and carrying power. Pupils sometimes speak of “the cold bare facts of history.” In order to give light and warmth to these facts it is necessary to fire the imagination and to open the mind to some dim appreciation of the significance of historical events as a part of human experience. This is the office of poetry.

France and England are the only countries that in this first year received anything like adequate treatment. When we began the study of Russia, the first exciting events of the Russian revolution were filling the newspapers. The reports of the daily press were used as the point of departure, and the work of the class was bent to the effort to discover the causes of the struggle. Here the new method was much more to the mind of the class than the chronological order. As one of them said, “We wonder why certain revolutions break out, and if we start to study the beginning of the nation's progress, it would be a long time before we found out the cause of the present outbreak among the people of the nation.” After Russia, other nations were taken up in barest outline. At the end of the year, by way of final summary a brief review was undertaken in order to trace, even though but slightly, the working of the principle of nationality in modern history, and to discover any counterbalancing tendencies in the direction of internationalism.

To attempt any final calculation of results after a single year of experiment would of course be absurd. It is only possible at most to determine general tendencies so far as they appear in the single group of pupils, and endeavor to find out which way the wind is blowing. Only the coming years can tell how far the thirty members of the class developed enlightened social consciences, and even then no one will know how much was due to the study of nations. Yet some sort of rough measurement is necessary if the experiment is to have any value as a guide for the future. To this end no better basis for judgment has offered itself than the suggestions of Mr. George Macaulay Trevelyan for gauging the effectiveness of historical reading for adults. It will be remembered that Mr. Trevelyan, in his delightful essay, “Clio, A Muse,” discusses the value of history as a school of political wisdom, and comes to the conclusion that mere historical information is only of value as it produces “a state of mind " calculated “to breed enthusiasm,” “to break down prejudice,” and “to suggest ideals.” A “state of mind" made up of these component parts would meet exactly the aims of the Committee on Social Studies. These qualities may be accepted as the essential tests of all historical study, whether for children or adults.

By the aid of this analysis the pupils who had completed the course in “The Study of Nations" were questioned in order to detect indications of budding enthusiasm, of weakening prejudice and of new ideals of political righteousness and social justice. The answers received were so illuminating as to the pupil's point of view that it seems worth while to quote them somewhat at length.

First, they were encouraged to write in their own way what benefits they had derived from the course. They seized on the part of the work that most nearly concerned their present interest, and naturally they measured their gains in terms of knowledge. It was a source of satisfaction to them that they were now able to understand something of the war, and to enter into discussions about it with some measure of intelligence. Differences in personality give color to their statements. One wrote modestly, “I have derived benefit from my year's course in history, although it might not appear so to many people. It

has been like reviewing a story of the nation instead of cold, bare facts of history, and has stimulated my interest in the different nations, as to their welfare, what they were, and what they stand for to-day.” Another one, less modest, wrote: “ The benefits I have derived from the course are: (1) Know all about different nations, languages, religions, customs, etc.: (2) found out about best kinds of governments for and by the people and also the worst kind; (3) I also found out there were other countries besides the United States which had governments as good as ours, and languages, customs, etc., which are different from ours.” This declaration of omniscience was rather appalling. Evidently more care must be taken another year to lead all pupils to the conclusion of one boy who rejoiced that he was now able to read the newspapers and follow the moves of both sides “almost intelligently.”

On another occasion pupils were asked to write which method they had found more interesting and profitable—the chronological order or the approach from the present. As this class had had one year of history conducted in the conventional way by an excellent teacher, they were able to make an intelligent comparison. Three of them declared for the old method as less confusing. This is clearly a criticism of the present teacher, not necessarily of the method. The greatest care must be exercised in outlining the work and presenting a clear-cut foundation. The material must not be “so spread out that there is nothing to set the teeth into,” as some one has expressed it. That is a danger that can be guarded against with greater experience in handling the work. Even with this difficulty, however, 90 per cent. of the class voted for the new method as more interesting and profitable. As one of them wrote: “It is more interesting to take present conditions and situations and trace them back to their source than to start at the beginning and come through the years up. It is more tiresome and uninteresting to follow history doglike and grammar school fashion up through the present. It is more fascinating to take an existing fact and seek the reasons for it than to start with the reasons plus many details which will be forgotten, and aim at the point.” In the words of another: “I think that in this way it is more interesting, for when we spend so much time on the history of years ago we get so tired and sick of it that we don't have a spark of interest left for present-day conditions.” A third said: “The present time arouses your interest so that you don't mind studying the earlier part so much.” In justice to the work of the preceding year the testimony of the pupil who had always found history the favorite study should be considered, as well as that of the boy who wrote: “I like history this year just as well as I ever did, and that is going some.” On the whole, the judgment of the class was decidedly in favor of the new course. Moreover, these remarks were an unexpected revelation as to the need for reform in the older method.

It will be observed also that the answers are absolutely frank, without any attempt to write what would

be pleasing. The pupils were instructed not to sign the papers and to speak with absolute sincerity. There is every evidence that they obeyed instructions. As a test of their power in dealing with public questions, they were asked whether they read the newspapers with more interest and intelligence in June than in September previous. Here the answers were almost unanimously in the affirmative. One spoke as a fair representative who said: “Around September when I read the newspapers I always read the comic pictures and that is all, but lately I’ve been reading every word of it for fear I'd miss something I might need to know.” The most interesting development from the work was in the direction of its main purpose—to break down prejudice and broaden the sympathies. One day the pupils were asked to state whether as a result of their study they found themselves more broadminded, more sympathetic toward people of alien race and customs. Of course they did not know that they were being used as laboratory specimens. The question appealed to their love of self-analysis, however, and in the most naive fashion they examined their consciences and reported. Many of them simply said: “Yes!” or “Yes, I think so.” One said: “If not broad-minded, at least awakened.” Another, taking the question more personally, wrote: “I have unconsciously formed the habit of thinking out problems that come up from the relationship of the nations, and not taking sides or becoming over-sure of myself. I think I can appreciate correction or criticism on any subject with a better grace than I could before I took the course.” The next one said: “I am learning to be more tolerant, but it comes hard.” Another: “I think perhaps I am more broad-minded, for by studying about the customs, government and sentiments of different nations, some of the petty prejudices I held toward them have disappeared.” Several pupils went into more detail and explained just where their prejudices and misconceptions had weakened. “The principal benefit I have gained,” said one, “is the appreciation and value of some of the Europeans. Most pupils, like myself, thought Italy a land of bricklayers, Russia one of anarchists, etc. Now, Italy an important factor in the development of a country, Russia, progressive in quite a few ways. In general I have learned that most countries in a general way are similar.” Another one wrote: “I am in greater sympathy with the Russian people than before. I always had the idea that they were just a slovenly, ignorant race. However, I realize now that it is all due to the oppression of the ruling forces. For the Germans, I look upon them with a broader view. For instance, I did not know much about the Germans. Since studying history I have seen things from a different point of view. I always thought them an easy-going intellectual race of people; in fact, admired the race in general. Now I know for a fact that they are a well-educated, wellcared-for people. Of course, in the present war I naturally would feel a hatred for Germany, which I

do. For now that I understand the good training of the German people I cannot understand many of their seemingly barbaric actions.” Yet another testimony is: “Of course I have no love for Germany, but in the study of her country I found many things in which I admire German efficiency. I look upon Germany with much more tolerance than I did before I studied about it. Also some of the Balkan States, I have great pity for them. I never had much liking for a Greek, but since I have learned about their bravery and courage I like them quite well.” Others have reached the point where they are ready to generalize a little, as this one: “I do look upon people with different customs with more tolerance and sympathy, because I found that their customs were to them just the same as ours are to us, and many of their customs are better too. I found that they have their points of view the same as anybody else.” As another one put it: “We are all foreigners to some one.” They were all approaching the feeling expressed in broken English by an Armenian boy: “I don't look upon people of difference customs. I look upon people same as I look upon my brother.” The Armenian made a mental reservation against the Turk, for when he was asked to tell what he knew of the Turks to-day, he replied: “They don't like us, so of course we don't like them. I can't talk of them.” We hope the little girl of German parentage had no mental reservation when she wrote: “The world is my country. All are my brothers.” When the pupils were asked if they had gained any hints from the experience of Europeans for the betterment of their own country the answers were varied. “We might be more efficient, don't you think?" queried one. Others had found new ideals of public service in the German government of cities, social legislation in Germany and England, government ownership of railways, care for the unemployed, and the ideals if not the program of the socialists. From the comments of these boys and girls one receives with every sentence an impression of expanding intelligence reacting with vigor and power upon the material presented for study. Their little world had grown bigger and more full of meaning as the year progressed. At the same time their attitude toward it had changed. More nearly than before they had approached the “state of mind ’’ indicated by Mr. Trevelyan. Their remarks may indicate only mild enthusiasm for the study of history, but in the more important matter of the conduct of public affairs their interest is increasingly keen. The bars raised by prejudice are breaking down and the background of the community life is infinitely extended. At the same time new ideals of tolerance, of efficiency, of community welfare are slowly being formed. If, as has been said, the hymn of hate is but the logical outcome of national history taught in national schools, the American teacher may well view with hospitality any suggestion, like this of the Committee on Social Studies, which promises to provide for the student of national history in our schools a background of international sympathy. With all due at

tention to national patriotism, the American youth, himself a product of mingled nationalities, must be trained to acceptance of Goethe's great sentiment: “ Above all nations is humanity.”



FRANCE. General references: “France Under the Republic,” John Charlemagne Bracq. “France and the French," Charles Dawbarn.

“Outlines of Medieval and Modern History,” Philip Van Ness Myers. “National Geographic Magazine ":

“The France of To-day,” Major Gen. A. W. Greeley, September, 1914.

“The Beauties of France," Arthur Stanley Riggs, November, 1915.

“ The World's Debt to France," November, 1915. “ History of Western Europe," J. H. Robinson. “Medieval and Modern Times," J. H. Robinson.

“ Outlines of European History," J. H. Robinson and C. Beard.

“ Development of Modern Europe,” J. Robinson and C. Beard.

“The Statesman's Year-Book.”
Keynote: “France, 1870,” George Meredith.

A. The Land of France.

I. Map work, France in 1914. II. Products of France—“Bountiful fair land of vine and

grain." B. Industries of France—“Mother of Luxuries."

“ Transcendent in her foundries, arts, and looms." Special topics preparatory to a visit to the Museum of

Fine Arts French Porcelain.

“History of French Porcelain,” Eugène Müntz. French Furniture.

“History of Furniture,” Albert Jacquemart.

“ Chats on Old Furniture,” Arthur Hayden. French Lace.

“The Lace Book,” M. Hudson Moore.

“A History of Lace,” Mrs. Bury Palliser. French Tapestry. “ Tapestry,” Alfred de Champeaux. “ Hand Loom Weaving,” Luther Hooper.

“Short History of Tapestry,” Eugène Müntz, Biographical Sketches : Louis Blériot and Mme. Paquin.

“Makers of Modern France," Charles Dawbarn. C. The Fine Arts in France (preparatory to Boston Art

Museum study).
French Painters as Illustrated in Masters in Art.
French Sculptors.
“Handbook of Modern French Sculpture,” Dan. Cady

French Cathedrals.

“Notre Dame de Paris," Charles Heatt.
“ Cathedrals of Northern France," Francis Miltoun.
Cathedrals of Southern France, Francis Miltoun.

D. The French Nation.
I. Introductory study, discussion of question, How does

it happen that we have a distinct nation called

France? (a) Review in text-book of the beginnings of France after the break-up of Charlemagne's empire and the

treaties of Verdun and Mersen. (b) Development of the French nation under the early

Capetians. References: “ The Growth of the French Nation," George Burton

Adams. “ History of Western Europe," J. H. Robinson. “Medieval and Modern Times,” J. H. Robinson.

II. Beginnings of the French Language.

Any historical grammar of the French language.
“History of the Middle Ages," Dana Carlton Munro.

(The Strassburg Oaths.) III. Development of French chivalry and romance as

shown in the Crusades and the medieval romances.

France, “Mother of heroes."
France, “Mother of honor."

France, “Mother of glory.”

General accounts of the Crusades.

“Chanson de Roland " in translation.
Special consideration of typical heroes.

Charlemagne in history and in romance.
Chevalier Bayard, Stephen of Blois, Godfrey de

Bouillon, Louis IX.
E. Logical and orderly quality of the French mind as shown

by French experiments in government. I. Review of the feudal system, most logically developed

in France. II. Development of monarchy in reaction from the evils

of feudalism. Study of Richelieu, Mazarin and

Louis XIV.
Special Topic: Expression of French politeness in the

elaborate etiquette of the court of Louis XIV. Reference: “A Lady of the Old Régime," Ernest Hen

derson. F. France the missionary to Europe of the doctrine of

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
“O she that made the brave appeal

For manhood when our time was dark,
And from our fetters drove the spark
Which was as lightning to reveal
New seasons with the swifter play

Of pulses, and benigner day," etc.
The evils of the old régime.
Successive experiments in government.
Importance of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Historic figures in the struggle.
Emergence of the French national song and the flag

of the Republic.
The revolutionary spirit as a military force.
War with the old monarchies.

Permanent gains from the struggle.

“ The French Revolution ” (selections), Thomas Carlyle. “The French Revolution," Bertha Meriton Gardiner. “ The French Revolution,” William O'Connor Morris. “Outlines of Medieval and Modern History,” Philip Van

Ness Myers “ History of Western Europe," J. H. Robinson. “Medieval and Modern Times," J. H. Robinson.

3 This course dealt only with European nations, because it was offered as a modification of “Modern European History.” The selection of typical nations might well include an Asiatic and a South American nation.

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