The Oregon statesman. (Salem, Or.) 1916-1980, February 03, 1924, Page 9, Image 9

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I What Do They Teach Your Children?"
(From Colliers)
When you se'your boy or
girl struggling1 over "home
work" "In Latin verbs or long
equations, learning to spell
big words and-rattle off the
dates of battles, do you some
times ask "What's the use?"
Yon're not far wrong in ask
ing that, for the best educa
tors themselves are now ask
ing hafs the use of each
and every school sub
ject. How they're finding
cot what they should teach
and how to teach it, is told
here by the Superintendent
of Schools of "Winnetka, 111.
It's a story for every parent,
every teacher, and every
school board member.
1 Last spring I sat at tho next
desk to that occupied by a well-to-
f dor manufacturer. It was at tho
University of Chicago Parent-
t Teachers' Association. The mem
bers of that organization were
taking a Bimple elementary arith
metic test.
Jho test was part of an investi
gation going oil in northern Illi
nois as to the degree of arithme-
tical speed and accuracy possessed
by intelligent and successful men
. and . women.
The first section of the test con
sisted of simple-addition problems.
I am reasonably rapid, and start
en In at a good clip. But present
ly I noticed the manufacturer
grinning at me. He was doing
two examples to my one! iv
When we cam to subtraction I
r put on all the speed I had, but it
wasnltany use. That man was
f nearly twice as fast as 1 was. I
began to' feel it little chagrined,
f while he was obviously delighted.
L lie wag "hanging it all over" the
Theil w ent to Inner riivUinn
yllere f my r manufacturer slumped
(badly.'"" I 'spurted, and began to
pile up a clear lead.
Then fractions were announced.
As if at a signal, from every part
of the room went up one unani
knous groan. From Jhe page of
the examination booklet the hund
red prosperiouS;. parents ga,w .Irac-
Jon problems simple ones that
e give to fifth-grade children-
taring them in the face! I went
o work quickly, and after doing
three or four examples glanced at
tny manufacturer's paper. He had
i tried the first example three times
i poo, was sua wonting at n. vvnen
I time was called I had finished my
i fractions,- but my well-to-do manu-
. facturer had only done one exam
ple and jhU answer to that was
i wrong! j
' This did not reflect on the man-
$ tifacturer's intelligence. It re
flected oil the schools which were
putting far too much stress on a
process obviously , not much used
It In life.1 jVhen we tabulated all
the results of our investigations
we found that members of parent
teachers1 associations, Rotary
4 clubs, commercial clubs, and other
organizations who had volunteered
to take the test, did about as well
with their fractions as the average
fifth-grade child who is still just
Chairman of the Republican National Committee
The cabi-l
net , officers
and heads of i
thej various
other feder
al executive
agencies are
making their
a n n u a 1 re
ports to the
and the Con
jrress. These
reports con
stitute an ac
T I.
.Counting of the! conduct of the
I public business' lor one year.
1 The test of popular government
Sthe manner v of its' admlnlstra
n on, the character and cost of the
jerviee it renders the (people. The
ieporta' of these;' departmehta re-
(Ur1 4h. ., U. Am Y,-
ent administration there ha.been
greater aati better :serviee to the
public than ver before In the his
tory of the rovernment. (
This is true because the heads of
Che departments, carrying out a
policy pf the Republican adminis
tration; ' have not been "content
with perforalnsfmerely.ihe rpu
"jine executive duties. Every field
.of actlTity has its problems. The
'agencies Of the government under
this administration have acted In
he knowledge that these problems
uld be solved and that it is a
art of their duty to jwsist as-far
js possible krthe solution.!; ,
All along the line there gas been
learning tho processes. The scores
of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth
grade children from city after cicy
showed that they could work cir
cles around even the more intelli
gent parents.
This gave us a definite cue as
to where emphasis was needed in
schools arithmetic. Speed and
accuracy of the parents in addition
and subtraction far outranked that
of the average eighth-grade child.
In multiplication and division the
parents ranked about equal to
seventh-grade children. But in
fractions the demands of life are
evidently so slight that it is a
waste of time to give children
more than the rudiments of know
ledge in this field.
Cheers for An Author
The question at once arises: "Is
the performance of adults the
right way to determine what chil
dren should do?" It must be re
membered that these were decid
edly successful adults. We can
assume that the knowledge they
possess has been sufficient to meet
their needs. Where it has not
been sufficient they have clearly
increased this knowledge and
skill, as is shown by the way their
speed has grown in addition and
Overtraining in such subjects
as fractions, obviously, simply re
sults in later forgetting, and is
therefore a waste of time.
We don't yet know what child
ren should be taught. But we are
beginning to find out.
Last spring my seventh- and
eighth-grade children at Winnet
ka, 111., had a banquet for the bas
ketball team. Enthusiasm ran
high, and cheers were given for
tho stars, the athletic coach., and
popular teachers. Suddenly one
of the boys proposed nine "Kalis"
for Ru?g. They were given lust
ily. I wonder if ever before children
have cheered the author of a
school textbook!
Harold Rugg of Teachers Col
lege, Columbia University, is the
compiler of a of experimen
tal social-science pamphlets. With
them the upper-grade children of
the Winnetka elementary schools
have been studying history in a
nW way. and for a uew. purpose.
This is to . train children to solve
present-day problems in terms of
the jast-experience of the race.
. Rugg made a careful investiga
tion, listing the problems discussed
Jn 140 books on economic, social,
and Industrial questions, all pub
lished Bince the war. He then
searched .through a wide range of
historical material to find out
what events would throw light on
these problems. His pamphlets,
that grew out of this study, are
now being tried out by several
thousand schools, in an effort to
ascertain whether children are
capable of doing work of this
Another function of history and
geography Is to give children suf
ficient acquaintance with persons,
places, and events to enable them
to read and converse intelligent
ly. To decide what historical and
geographical facts are alluded to
frequently in the literature of to
reorganization looking to more
efficient and more economical ser
vice. The irritating delays which
have long characterized govern
ment bureaus in their public deal
ings have been altogether elimin
ated or. reduced to a minimum.
Red tape has been set aside. Busi
ness principles have been observed
and business practices have been
made the rule throughout the ex
ecutive agencies, In a great many
cases there has been an extension
of the activities without any in
crease in expense or number of
There has been a recognition of
the necessity of cooperation of all
government activities in order to
achieve the best' results for busi
ness and industry, agriculture and
labor, the nation and the individ
ual. This has been accomplished
under the present administration
to a marked degree, with an ac
companying reduction of eipense.
To an extent not generally real
ized, the work of these depart'
ments intimately touches every
home, and the character of , then
service vitally affects the welfare
of every community and individual
A review, of the work of their ac
tivities and accomplishments of the
past year fully justifies the state
ment that-at no previous period
have the American people been so
well served by tb-exetire agen
cies of rhe government ar they
now are under this administration.
day, 15 Winnetka teachers met one
evening every week for two years,
sitting around tables in newspaper
offices, or tho Chicago Public Li
brary, or in the school building,
with magazines and newspapers,
writing down on little slips every
reference to a person, place, or
event. Altogether we went through
tho files of 18 magazines and
newspapers, scattered in such a
way as to cover every month of
every year from 1905 to 1922.
We had bushel baskets full of lit
tle white slips with the names of
persons or places, the articles and
periodicals in which these names
occurred, and the date of each
occurrence. Altogether we noted
SI, 484 aluusions, 61.000 of which
occurred in at least six different
periodicals. We arranged all
these in order, and found out ex
actly which ones had the greatest
frequency of occurrence.
We found some amusing com
binations. .T. P-. Morgan and
Queen Elizabeth were of equal im
portance. So were Benjamin
Franklin and Kabylon. John Bus
kin, Samuel Gompcrs, and Aristole
formed a trio near the middle of
the list. Samuel Johnson and
King Solomon rank together. So
do Bengal, Central Park, and Men
delssohn. Making History T'M-ful
Many of these incongruities dis
appeared when we separated the
list into its time periods. That
Roosevelt should outrank all other
men in modern times was not sur
prising, nor that New York City
should" outrank all cities in fre
quency of occurrence in American
periodicals. Neither was it sur
prising to find that the character
in ancient times most freuently
alluded to was Christ, and the one
who received the next highest
score was Julius Caesar.
On the whole, the list was very
illuminating. We found, for ex
ample, that Augustus Caesar,
Ponce de Leon, De Soto, and
Antietam, Bull Run. and Shenan-
doat occur in most children's his
tory textbooks, but had no place
on our list. On the other hand,
Byzantium, Buddha, Confucius,
Plato, Homer, the Celts, Mecca,
and Bagdad occur in few or none
pf the elementary-school text
books, yet rank high enough on
our list to justify very consider
able emphasis. This meant re
writing elementary-school history
in terms of practical usefulness.
Having discovered the facts, it
next became our problem to in
clude, them in study material
which would be both interesting
and accurate. An elaborate book
keeping system enabled us to find
out which parts of our written ma
terial were readily grasped by the
children and which parts they were
unable to understand. By revis
ing the material on the basis of
these data, we were able to pro
duce much more readable history
and geography for the children
than that contained in textbooks
For example, here is a para
graph from a good ordinary his
tory text:
"The Northmen were Teutonic,
like the English; and. like the an
cestors of tho English, they were
great pirates -and sea rovers. In
the time or Charlemagne they be
gan to swarm forth from their
northern homes and overrun all
western Europe. In France, after
repeated attacks throughout the
ninth century, they at last settled
down in a largo district about the
mouth of tho River Seine, which
was given them by the French
And here is the equivalent, Trout
the work done in Winnetka as tho
result of our investigation:
"Once in n while Norsemen
made long trading voyagesto other
countri"s. Most of the time, how
ever, they were just pirates. In
the springtime they hauled their
longboast out of the winter sheds,
and launched them in the waters
of the narrow bays. They loaded
the ships with food and fighting
men, and away they sailed. Some
times one ship went alone, but
more often thy wcut in fleets of
10 or 20 ships, all sailing togeth
er. "The Norsemen sailed to Eng
land, to Ireland, and to northern
France. When people saw them
coming, they usually fled away in
terror, for they were afraid of the
Vikings. Tho Vikings' long ships
ran up on the shore near soma
town or monastery. The warriors
climbed out, and set off with their
long swords, their battleaxes and
their shields. They killed most
of the people that they met. Some
times they took strong young men
or women as prisoners, to be used'
as slaves. They robbed tho mon
asteries and tho churches. They
took whatever they liked gold,
silver, jewelry, swords, and cloth.
Then they loaded their ships and
sailed back to their homes in the
bays of Scandinavia,"
The difference in simplicity-of
language, and interest, is evjdent
" - So much for history. How about
spelling?' . .
It is one thing to know that!
children ought to be able to spell.
It is quite another to know what
words. How much of your spell
ing time was wasted on unneces
sary words when you went to
The old method of making a
speller consisted of taking a dic
tionary and selecting by the auth
or's personal judgment the words
he thought children would use.
The new method consists of a sci
entific ranking of wordB in the or
der of the frequency of their oc
currence, so that children may be
taught the most important words,
the words most frequently used,
and wasto no time on unnecessary
Spelling by Common Sense
In Connecticut all the composi
tions written by the children in a
number of different towns were
turned in for tabulation. The
compositions were cut up line by
line and then word by word.
These words were passed around
to children, who sorted them in
boxes with a compartment for each
letter of the alphabet. These were
further sorted and tabulated. Al
together more than half a million
running words were sorted in this
way, coming from " 0.000 child
ren's compositions. From this
study the words most commonly
used by children were readily de
termined. In Iowa children of different
schools brought from home o72U
business and personal letters rer
ceived by their parents, containing
a total of 3C1.1S4 running words.
These words were also sorted and
listed in the order of frequency.
From this it was possible to de
termine which words were most
f req.uent ly used in adult corres
pondence. Dr. Thorndike at Columbia Uni
versity for years collected word
studies'. lie" used the Iowa list,
but also counted the words in
hooks, periodicals, and many other
places, covering altogether 41
sources and over four and one
half million running words! From
this the 10,000 commonest words
in the English language were de
termined. By combining these studies it
was possible for us in Winnetka
to tind out which words children
were most likely to need an use.
Every child should be able to
spell such words as:
which are among the 1000 com
monest words in the English
lauguage. A speller containing
5000 words should obviously con
tain the 5000 commonest.
Yet we found that such words
defalcation meritorious
gratuitous encumbrance
that do not even fall within the
10,000 commonest, are included
in widely used TiOOO-word school
The whole present course of
study in our public schools, like
the lists of words in the old spell
ers, is the result of tradition and
gueseswork. Some of it is useful
and necessary. Some of it is ab
solutely worthless. And some of
it is actually harmful.
Throughout the organization of
my work with individual instruc
tion at Winnetka, the importance
of determining scientifically on a
suitable course kept forcing itself
upon me.
What constitutes problem-solving
ability in arithmetic? . How
much of it is needed? How can it
be taught? What use is geome
try? What pails, if any. of alge
bra are of value? Is the value of
Latin sufficient to justify the time
it requires?
There is yet no answer to these
and hundreds of other questions.
The subjects now taught have
crept into our American schools
without a scientific investigation
of their merits, or have remained
long after the day ol their useful
ness has passed.
Latin and English grammar are
outgrown vestiges of the days
when the grammar school and ac
ademy prepared children for the
Algebra and much oT our grammar-school
arithmetic pushed their
way gradually down from higher
schools of learning, where they
were included in the "general
The facts we teach in history are
the result of abridgement of more
advanced historical work; urttally
by men with little knowledge eith
er of children or of the needs of
the outside world.
Undoubtedly many of the
things which we are teaching are
vaifiable. nut which are they?
How can we determine what
should be taught and what not
taught? The plea of general" cul
ture and mind : 'training.' justiry
teaching Sanskrit as readily ftn
spelling, justify teaching- words
like "enomatoeia" as readily
"ihich," It slveS' usi no basis
lot selectloua of thme: facts which
will be most useful to children in
after life.
Th University . of Chicago,
Teachers College of Columbia,
Stanford, and a number of other
itatc universities are beginning
to attack these problems. Some
have established bureaus of edu
cational research. Some public
schools too have added a research
department, most notable of which
Put Off Till
A fantastic tale you say? Assuredly so. Hut the truth
it holds is not far beyond the facts. For it is known
that countless lives are blighted by' kitchen work that
and dull spirits.
is prabahly that headed by ,S. A.
Courtis in Detroit.
Our Winnetka work brought us
against the need for scientific
knowledge -with unusual forcef ill
ness; because the first step in fit-
i tiii g our schools to individual chil
dren consisted, in- the clarifying of
our objectives. We had to set
down in clear term:i exactly what
we s wanted eachi child to know.
to $82-50
V r
Our Windows
Remember You Pay No Interest
exactly what we wanted each child
to be able to do.
How Not. to Bend
We have made use in the Win-,
netka schools not only of inves
tigations of what we should teach
children, but those that bear upon
the question of how to teach. No
investigation has been more pro
ductive of helpfulness in this field
than that carried on by the people
1 . t, "
ortutiity Preseetei
Kef a
I IT JV,- 7 . ' . .
$s&bi rep?
e ' ...... -..r-..-v,.rT,
m j
. i . ... ..
Your old stove taken on account. In this range lire
combined all the features women have always wanted
..convenience efficiency economy and sanitation.
For Opportunities
mmm i my
at the school of Education of the
University of Chicago. They hav
been attacking the all-Important
problem of how to teach reading, i
1 Recently they have' been study
ing the eye movements of children:
in reading, by means ot moving
pictures. i ':
A ray of light is cast from a dia.
(Continued on page 8J"
What You
Should Do
1 1
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