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the Ecole des ponts et chaussees. There are present, however, distinguished teachers from several countries of Europe, and any errors which this paper may contain will doubtless be pointed out by them, and from the discussion which will follow we in this country may learn much regarding foreign methods.
This paper must of necessity be general in its character. Methods are not alike all over Europe, while in this country the greatest diversity exists. A paper might well be devoted to a discussion of the different methods in use in this country alone, so that a comparison between European and American methods must be simply qualitative, not quantative, and can only be made in a general way. In this comparison it will, of course, be necessary to refer to some extent to other subjects which have been or are to be presented to this Congress—such as the Ideal Engineering Education, Favorable and Unfavorable Tendencies in Education, and others. Methods cannot be discussed without reference to the material to be operated upon. Different materials require different modes of treatment. As in manufacturing (to quote a comparison recently made use of), the finished product in education depends also upon the material, the machinery, and the workmanship. The material is furnished to the school, the machinery and workmanship are what the school adds to produce the finished product. If the latter is defective, it may be due not to the machinery or to the workmanship, but to the material. A faulty piece of goods may, on account of poor material, be turned out by the best machinery with a large lot of perfect pieces. The more uniform the material, the more accurately the machinery and workmanship may be adapted to its treatment, and the more uniform and certain the finished product will be. It is in the proper adaptation of the machinery and the workmanship to the material that the science of teaching consists.
Let us first, therefore, consider the material. Here we meet the first great difference between American and French and German schools, and the difference is much in favor of the latter. In our diversified country educational methods are nearly as varied as the topography and culture, and schools of nominally the same grade differ immensely in the quality of their work. Moreover, the profession of teaching is not recognized and appreciated here to the same extent as in Europe. Our active life and immense nervous energy hurry men into other pursuits; the financial emoluments of teaching are not what they should be; and too often only those men teach who cannot well do anything else. Reference is here made, of course, to teaching in preparatory schools. The points to which particular attention is now called are the diversity in preliminary training in this country as compared with the comparative uniformity abroad, and the higher degree of preparation required there. Many of our American schools draw their students from a comparatively limited area, sometimes almost wholly from a single state, and they are to that extent fortunate, especially if the fitting schools from which the students come are of nearly the same grade and character. Other schools, and especially the larger ones, draw their students from a wide range of territory. Perhaps only those teachers who are connected with such schools realize fully the extreme differences between preparatory schools in different parts of the country and between the training which has been received by students who have nominally studied the same subjects, and are able to pass in a way the same examinations. To mould into one homogeneous whole this heterogeneous mass of students, nominally possessing the same degree of preparation, yet in reality-apart from their own individual differences in ability-differing vastly in the training and development that they have received; to smooth out the inequalities and bring the class to as nearly the same level as possible, seriously hampers the progress of our higher schools, and requires work of them which ought to be done-and in Europe is done—by the preparatory schools. Some of the students possessing the greatest native ability are likely to be among those who have had the smallest amount of training—who have not learned how to study or how to think. To give these men a fair chance, as well as to weed out those who are not competent to continue their work, necessarily impedes progress. In this respect the contrast with Europe is striking. Then the preparatory schools there are better and more uniform in grade, the teachers are better trained and the students come to the technical school with approximately the same degree of preparation, knowing how to think, and with a thorough knowledge of the preparatory studies. That this is true is abundantly proven by the fact that at none of the German or Austrian technical schools are entrance examinations held—Zurich and the French schools alone requiring them. The certificate of a preparatory school of the proper grade is all that is required for admission.
The contrast is not less striking if we compare, not simply the uniformity, but the degree of preparation. The German student upon entering the polytechnikum has had as a rule nine years of thorough training, and is qualified to devote himself from that time forward almost entirely to professional work. He has completed the study of one modern language and sometimes of both English and French, has studied chemistry and physics, and in mathematics has always completed trigonometry and frequently analytic geometry, many students beginning at the technical school with a course in calculus. The writer believes that the students entering a German polytechnikum are from one to two years in advance of those entering our own best schools.
As is well known, the facilities for preparatory instruction are so poor in some parts of this country, that in preparing to pass even our entrance examinations, many boys require so long a time that they are nineteen or twenty years old, or even older, before they are able to enter, especially if they have been unable to study continuously, or have changed several times from one school to another. In Germany there is generally no required age for entrance, but when it is required, it is seventeen or eighteen years. In France, the Ecole des ponts et chaussees requires an age of eighteen years, but even at this age the students must have completed the the study of the calculus, as well as of mechanics and physics. In Austria and in Zurich the required age is eighteen years. In this country it is generally sixteen or seventeen. In Germany, the average age of students on entering the polytechnic school appears to be not less than twenty years, and is greater if the year of military service is passed beforehand. The writer has been informed by a professor in the technical school of Berlin that the average age of students at graduation is about twenty-six years (including the year of military service).
When we now remember that the courses of study in all the German technical schools cover four years; in Austria four years for mechanical engineering and chemistry, and five years for civil engineering and architecture, in the Ecole des ponts et chaussees three years—we are led to the conclusion, which would seem to be indisputable, that the continental technical schools are much more advanced than ours. By this the writer does not mean to imply that a young man who wishes to practice engineering in America had better go at once to a foreign school. On the contrary, he believes that several of our American schools will better prepare him for American practice than any of the foreign schools, since methods of practice here differ essentially from those abroad. What is meant, is that the continental schools carry the instruction in most technical subjects to a far more advanced point than is the case with us. This statement is indisputa