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METHOD OF RECITATION

CHAPTER I

VARIETY VERSUS UNIFORMITY IN METHODS OF

INSTRUCTION

THERE has been a long-standing dispute among teachers whether or not the processes of instruction must conform to any fixed and uniform regulatives. Among scholars, and even among teachers, many have been sceptical of anything like a definite science of education.

At the first glance, the broad field of education Reasons for presents a medley, — many and varied studies, chil- scepticism

toward a dren of all ages and capacities, and teachers of science of

education. nearly every quality and description. There are many sorts of schools, and great diversity of purpose and method even in schools of the same kind. In high schools, for example, there are general and business courses, classical and scientific courses, but teachers are at variance as to the best methods of instruction even in the classical course, to say nothing of the different standpoints of teachers of classics and of natural science. What is still more discouraging, the very sciences upon which pedagogy claims

to be based, psychology and ethics, lie as much in the field of controversy as pedagogy itself. In the midst of this endless variety and fluctuation in the theory and practice of teaching, it is not strange that many educated people, even teachers, take a sceptical attitude toward scientific method, and regard each person as a law unto himself.

This tendency to discredit a science of education is indicated by our use of the term method. There is scarcely a more common word in the teaching profession, and it is frequently employed in the plural form, a practical admission not of one and only one right method, but that their number is legion. Also some of the most common watchwords of our profession point in the same direction, “Freedom and originality,” “The teacher is born, not made,” “Make your own method.”

Our pedagogy seems to have fallen into a condition similar to that in which philosophy found itself in the time of the Sophists. Each man's judgment was counted as good as another's. Each man was the measure of all things, and though two men differed radically, both might be right in their judgments. The Sophists were sceptical of any universal standard of truth.

But Socrates, who followed the Sophists, sought in the individual's thinking, when properly guided, a universal principle of truth, so that all men when they think logically and soundly must agree. He

Universal principles of method the basis of a science of education.

was in search of a uniform mode of thinking which would have universal validity. Pedagogy likewise is in search of universal principles of method in learning, based not upon the subjective whim of the teacher, but upon the common law of mental action which is universal with children and students, in fact with all human beings. And the extent to which such universal principles of method are discovered, determines the extent to which there is a science of education.

The question is this : Is there any essential, natural process upon which a uniform method of treating the varied school subjects can be based? As already said, to outward appearance there seems to be no such process; there seem to be no principles that may serve as a guide for all persons in teaching all subjects. But we should not be discouraged by appearances. The fact that even good teachers show an infinite variety of individual and personal traits, and that studies differ greatly in subject-matter, is no proof that there is not a common mode of procedure for instruction. We remember that everywhere in nature and in society is variety and apparent confusion; fundamental laws do not stand out so as to be easily detected by careless observers. They lie deep and must be searched out by patient examination and labor. In the study of trees and flowers no scientist is deceived by the multiplicity and variety of forms. It is the habit of his mind to reduce all

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