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EDITED UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF A COMMITTEE OF THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION.
Field and Method of the Elementary College Course in History
Contributions by A. B. Show, W. A. Frayer, J. F. Baldwin,
What to Attempt in Collateral Reading, by W. W. Wuesthoff
Among Many Other Things Government and Wars
Not for the man who in mastering its facts has made himself the master of its spirit in all its logic and continuity. The story unfolds before him as a series of eternal causes and results. The great movements for war and for peace are but the visible expressions of human impulses. The element of chance is lacking alike from present and past in the scholarly, clear, and always interesting narratives of these two new histories.
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Field and Method of the Elementary College Course
Official Report of the Conference Held at the American Historical Association Meeting at Cincinnati, December 27, 1916
ACCOMPLISHED RESULTS AND FUTURE PROBLEMS IN THE TEACHING OF FRESHMAN HISTORY. BY ARLEY BARTHLow Show, LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY, CHAIRMAN OF THE CONFERENCE. When I was asked to preside over this conference, I said that I would be glad to “call time and keep the peace; ” but I was informed that something more than that was expected of the chairman, and so I am going to take just a few moments to call attention to certain phases of the matter before us. These conferences have usually taken the form of experience meetings, and it is well that such should be the case; but having no unique experience to relate of my own, I have chosen to-day to talk on more general lines, namely, to indicate some of the results in a broad way which have already been gained by conferences and by experiences, and to point out very briefly a few directions in which I think it is desirable and reasonable to look for progress in the future. The subject that we have before us to-day is not a new one; for at least three conferences upon this specific matter have been held in previous annual meetings of the Association. In the New York meeting of 1896 a general session was given up to the discussion of college teaching, not however particularly devoted to the first year's work. The first conference of that type was held in 1901 at Washington, and the matter was debated pro and con. In the brief reports of that conference that have been preserved for us certain very distinct tendencies are manifest. At that time it seems to have been true that the course in general European history was quite prevalent; but even fifteen years ago many of the devices which are now in standard use in colleges were already in use, such as the lecture, the quiz, referenee reading, and various other aids and appliances. In 1905, at the Baltimore and Washington meeting, another conference was held on the first year of college work. Here again there was a wide range of discussion. At the close of the discussion, the chairman, Professor Haskins, pointed out certain directions in which the discussion had gone. He said it was manifest, for one thing, that the emphasis was placed upon method rather than upon the substance or the field of the course. He said also that in his
judgment it was highly desirable to limit the field and not to make it too extensive. Then in 1906, at the last of these conferences held until the present time at the Indianapolis meeting, Professor Farrand in the chair, the discussion again covered a wide range, but narrowed down somewhat to a discussion of the relative importance of what is called a sequence of courses and a sequence of methods; and the upshot of the matter, as summarized by the chairman, was that there is no fixed order in the sequence of courses; that in order to give it in an intelligent way there ought to be a chronological sequence in the college course; but that after all method is more important than fact; and that great allowance must be made for the varying conditions of different institutions and localities. That was the last pronouncement of the Association in any formal way till the present time. That was ten years ago. However, we can say that these discussions have left an increment of permanent worth that has confirmed our suspicions about many things, and have sometimes enabled us to find vindication for certain methods and given us some degree of satisfaction of mind where otherwise we would have been disturbed.
Of course, during the decade that has elapsed since then we have learned much from our experience, and much that we have learned ought to come out in the discussion to-day. Nevertheless I think it may be said that all these conferences which we have had have not as yet crystallized into anything positive and concrete which we can put our hands upon and hold as established doctrine—certain results that we have reached and that we are not going to recede frombut as yet we cannot say that the first year of work in college has been standardized in any full degree. There is still room for experiment and for discussion.
Now I wish to say here, once and for all, that I recognize fully the limits of standardizing work of our type. Because we as individual teachers are jealous of our rights and of our liberties, we want to use our own resources and personalities as fully as we may in the direction of instruction. We shall not readily follow; we shall not readily call any man master, or any organization master. Still we want to leave the way open always for the fullness of light to break in from whatever source it may come. Consequently, in anything that I might say about the need of standardizing our methods and ideals, and the possibility of so doing, I am speaking always with that reservation. So much, then, for the state of the case up to the present time.
Now just a very few words with regard to the outlook upon the future. The subject that we have before us to-day is dual in its character, dealing with the field of elementary instruction on the one hand, and the method on the other. These two aspects of the matter hardly cover the whole subject. There are various phases which would need to be embraced in a thoroughly comprehensive view of the matter, and which we cannot take our time here to-day to consider, although we need to define somewhat more clearly than we are doing the varying ideals, aims or purposes of our college instruction.
The students who come into our elementary classes represent almost every possible phase of preparation, almost every possible phase of outlook upon the future. We have not as yet perhaps clearly defined our own purposes and aims in relation to these students, as to just what we are seeking to accomplish for them.
In the secondary school, for example, we have pretty clearly settled the fact that the chief purpose of historical instruction is in its trend toward good citizenship. Can we define in any such clear way the purposes of college instruction? We can say that it is partly for good citizenship, it is partly for the development of general cultural aims, it is partly for the training of teachers of history, it is partly for the training of specialists; but the relative proportions of these and the adjustment of the relation of one to the other is a matter that has not yet been thoroughly worked out.
More important still is the question of a proper correlation of college work with the preceding work of students. Our articulation with the secondary schools, the land over, is very imperfect and very unsatisfactory. For example, we are not agreed at all as to how much weight should be given in our freshman course to the previous historical studies of the student. To a questionnaire which I sent out to thirty leading institutions, something over a year ago, I got all sorts of answers. The general tendency was to ignore the previous work of the students and introduce them to the elements. Now that answer may be a necessary one—I am inclined to think it is—in view of the present conditions in the secondary schools and in colleges; but I am quite certain that that cannot be the final answer to the matter. We must have a better solution than that. We must have a way to give due weight and significance to the work which has been done before we took the student in hand. We must adjust our elementary course to their needs to a greater or less degree.
Coming now to the matter directly before us today, the question of the field of college history and of the method of college history, here again the complete lack of uniformity is most striking. We are giving as an elementary course to our first-year students in this
country almost every subject in the historical curriculum, and every man is fully persuaded in his own eyes that the thing which he is doing is the best thing to do. We are at this point a long way from standardization; and with regard to this again it must be said that possibly we never can reach anything like uniformity; possibly it will have to be a kind of goas-you-please. And still the man whose mind is built as much on lines of systematic tendencies as my own must hope that that time will come when we can more nearly see eye to eye. In the abstract it seems indisputably true that some field of history is better adapted to the training of freshmen than any other, if we can find it; and so here I think we need to take counsel together and need to compare notes that we may learn from the experience of one another. The ideal course for first-year students, for beginners in history in college, must of course fulfil certain requirements. It must have the best teaching materials and make available those teaching materials. It must appeal to the interest of students, and to do this must come within the reach of their understanding, and must lay foundations for their future work in history in an adequate way. This must be attained through a coherent course.
It is not my purpose to-day to attempt to point out the ideal field, but simply to say that until we have come more nearly together in our thinking and in our practice, this matter will remain an open question, in my judgment; and consequently I feel myself that this is perhaps the more important of the two questions before us to-day. The other (as to method) has received far more debate, and in its solution we have arrived far more nearly at a common opinion; but on this point relating to the field of instruction we are still, as I see it, very much at sea.
Just a word or two with regard to this matter of methods of instruction. The situation in this respect is very good, as I see it to-day. As I said at the beginning, we have come to an agreement about many of the large essentials. We no longer depend upon the text-book as the main-stay. The lecture system, with the quiz section, the conference, and all those devices, is in general use. We depend upon reference reading and written work of one type or another, and so on, for results. All this is established doctrine which is not likely to be overthrown by any experiences of the future. For many of these we shall not in my judgment find any substitutes that will be equally adequate. Here again we have, however, certain guiding principles which must be kept in view. Of these to my mind the first and perhaps the most important is that the personality of the teacher must never be forgotten. One man cannot lecture; another cannot do anything else. Each man must be allowed to work in his own way, and we cannot impose upon him a yoke of doctrine or dogma which shall in any way interfere with the freedom of his action in these things.
The ideal method must be a graded method. There must be progress from the first year to the last in the methods employed; and I believe in this respect we are still very much at fault. We teach freshmen often by methods that are adapted to seniors, and seniors by methods that are adapted to freshmen; and we have not as yet worked out that sequence of methods by which we should get the best results along the entire line. At any rate, that is my judgment about it, and also my experience. Then again in this matter we must have a proper balance of method and material, or method and fact. This is an old, old controversy, as old as the beginning of our teaching of history, as to whether we shall give historical information, or whether we shall train for what we call “power " or historical insight, or something of that kind. In my judgment, we have to seek both, and in due relation to one another. It is not knowledge or power, or even knowledge and power, but it is power through knowledge; and the proper method must take account of both. I am sure that none of us here believes in that kind of method which leaves in the mind of the student a knowledge of processes without any product, without any substratum of facts, or historical knowledge, or information, that has been gathered and stored away for permanent possession. So there are possibilities of improvement and growth in the field of method also. I want to speak of one thing that is rather a hobby of mine, although I must say that it is a hobby I have never tried to put into effect. I believe we shall come in the course of years—perhaps before many years— to a larger degree of supervision over the study work —I do not mean class-room work—but over the study work of our history students in college. We shall come to something which, for want of a better term, one may call an historical laboratory. We owe that term practically to Professor MacDonald, of Brown University. What I mean is this, that the student shall work under the eye of the instructor, under some kind of guidance; that the student shall come into a laboratory or work-shop where he will be provided with his desk, and have all of his material around him, with a specific task to be worked out under the guidance of the instructor. Out in California, of course, we pride ourselves on our schools, and I do not know whether you back here in the middle portion of the country have caught up with us in this matter yet, or not. But out in California we are getting into our secondary schools what is known as supervised study. That is to say, instead of sending the child to a study-room or study-hall to prepare a lesson, the lesson is prepared under the eye of the teacher, and then recited ; and the results that we have obtained by this method, so far as it has been employed up to date, are highly satisfactory. We shall come to adopt a similar plan, I think, in college work. I believe myself that when put upon a practical footing we shall be able to get fifty per cent. better results out of our elementary course than we are getting at the present time. Students do not know how to do the tasks that are assigned them. They need a far larger degree of guidance than we are giving them; and I believe that we can improve upon this situation
by making conditions right through supervision of their personal study.
Now let me refer to just one further point. Last year the Pacific Coast Branch of the Association adopted a resolution urging upon the parent Association the expediency of appointing a committee to bring in a report on the teaching of college history similar to the Report of the Committee of Seven on the field of secondary school work. This resolution was transmitted to the Executive Council, and I think they reported that while they did not see their way clear, because of financial reasons, to appoint such a committee at the present time, that they would be glad to have any light which this conference might throw upon that question. Consequently you will understand that we shall be glad to hear from any one here to-day who chooses to speak with regard to the wisdom of appointing a committee to gather up the results of our experience in formal shape. That question will be legitimate in the discussions of the hour.
I. The Field
THE FIELD OF THE ELEMENTARY COURSE. BY WILLIAM A. FRAYER, UNIVERSITY of MICHIGAN.
Whatever views we may hold as to the relative importance of scope and method, I think that most of us would prefer to speak about methods of study rather than about the field of study, because we have probably thought more about that phase of the subject.
I am afraid that I shall not be able to present anything that is new ; and I am afraid that I shall not be able to make any very categorical answers to the questions that are proposed this afternoon; furthermore, I do not think it is at present possible to make any absolutely categorical answers.
Let me say with reference to what our chairman has already remarked. I believe the question of purpose should be taken up in connection with the question of field and of method. If it is true that secondary schools are teaching citizenship successfully through history, then we do not need to pay much attention to that; but I for one do not believe that the secondary schools are successfully doing this, and so I believe that we teachers of elementary history in our colleges and universities, especially the universities where there are large bodies of students, have before us at the present time an opportunity for public service which transcends almost any other opportunity in the teaching profession. But this is purely a secondary function, and it should not be forgotten that our primary function is always to teach history; and I for one would like to see some of the best men in our field drafted into that work. I believe that all of us who are younger and are made to serve our apprenticeship in this work, are learning very valuable lessons, but at the same time are creating possibly some havoc while we are learning these lessons. and I should like to see the novices tried out on something less important than the introductory courses in