Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

personal contact with the teacher, learn to know him well, and, if he be the proper kind of man, learn to look up to him and are inspired by him. The same is true in Germany, in those courses in which the lectures are accompanied by drawing-room exercises. In purely lecture courses, however, the teacher lives entirely apart from his students; he comes to the school at the appointed hour, with his notes in his pocket, gives his lecture and goes home or to his room, his duty to the students beginning and ending with his lecture. The writer looks upon such a system as unfortunate. One of the great advantages which he thinks is derived by a student in our schools is the inspiration and enthusiasm which come from personal contact with a good teacher. He remembers that in his undergraduate days he felt it so, and he felt distinctly the loss of it in Germany.

In addition to the use of the lecture system, and as a partial justification for it, the foreign schools give a great deal of instruction that is merely detail, and cannot claim to be training at all in the way in which they give it, that is, by lectures. Instead of referring the student to some book where he can find these details, and telling him to look them up, or instead of furnishing him with prints of these details, they are all drscribed in the lecture and depicted upon the blackboard—at least, so it used to be. This instruction in details is carried to a very advanced point in both France and Germany. Regarding this, however, since it is carried on, not at the expense of principles, but in connection with principles, it is a point of superiority in foreign schools except in so far as it involves the expenditure of a large amount of time. Much time could be saved by the use of a text. Several of our own schools have the practice of distributing, if not printed notes, at least blue prints or cuts of the details to be considered, so that the student is not obliged to copy them from the blackboard, and the lecture can be devoted to a discussion and comparison of methods.

If properly done, the teaching of details can be made a means of excellent training. The main duty of the school, however, should be to teach the student the things that he cannot learn by himself, or that he probably will not learn by himself, besides training him to learn by himself. This means the teaching of principles-not necessarily purely abstract principles -but principles in connection with their applications, so that the principles themselves may be clearly grasped. In fact the writer wishes here to say that his own strong belief is that no teaching should be purely abstract, whether in a technical school or in a university. To teach pure mathematics, that is to say, mathematics simply as an abstract set of principles, for no end and with no illustration but themselves alone, seems to him to be fundamentally a fallacious and evil practice in education. “It is through its practical value," say Professors Ayrton and Perry, “that a knowledge of mathematics must come; and any teacher who refuses to consider the instinctive preference of his pupils to reason about things rather than about ideas, is a man who persistently refuses the powerful aid of nature." And again, Professor Huxley says, “The danger in all these technical schools in this: that the teacher generally begins his work on the high and dry method, and fills the mind of the student with mere verbal formula before there is any practical experience by which these ghosts can be embodied."

Schools in this country have not the time, as a rule, to teach much beyond principles, accompanied by a sufficient application to enforce and emphasize them. They cannot, as the continental schools do, carry the students through a long course in details. To this extent they are inferior to the foreign institutions, and to this extent their graduates are less prepared to enter at once on the practice of their profession. It must be acknowledged, however, that the student who is thoroughly grounded in principles can and will -yes, must-pick up these details by himself after leaving the school, so that the lack of them does not at all interfere with his ultimate success, which is the main end to be attained. Moreover, most matters of pure detail can be learned better and more quickly in actual practice.

As regards the point that we have thus far discussed, the writer need not say that he regards the American system (if he may call it so) as superior to the European. Each, however, is applied under different conditions, and is, perhaps, the method best suited to those conditions. The continental students enter the technical schools one or two years older than ours at entrance and they have also had a better training. They know how to think, and can and do assimilate a great part of the theoretical work that is given them, besides gaining a good knowledge of details, but they get little training in their technical courses, except what comes from their own study. We take our students with much less preliminary training, often very poorly trained or not trained at all. Our courses are, therefore, principally for training, with as much detail as we have time to give, or as much as is necessary to enforce the principles. While, therefore, the foreign schools carry their instruction in technical subjects much farther than we do, theirs is largely instruction in details, which we are obliged to leave the student to pick up by himself. In the study of principles, it will be found that while still ahead of us, they lead our best schools only by a few lengths, while in some respects, one or two of our schools are, perhaps, ahead of them. The American student has gained upon his competitor during his technical course. Considering his years, he is, at graduation, ahead of the foreigner. He will, in actual practice, learn the details of engineering work much better than the foreigner has learned them in the school, and when he is as old as the German is at graduation, he will, as already remarked, be a man more capable, as a rule, of doing work and attaining results.

The German system would not be successful in this country. The writer does not hesitate to say that, were it attempted to treat our students by this process, the result would be simply disastrous. The bright, mature, and well prepared men might learn as much as they do now, or even more, since there would be a gain in time due to the partial abandonment of recitations, and more ground could consequently be covered in the same time. But the average man, if he kept along, would find himself gaining little in power, and though he might be gaining information, it would be without a thorough understanding of the principles. The method works in Germany, and gives excellent results. That it does so seems to be due simply to the preliminary preparation the students receive. Only a young man who knows how to think and study can take such a course to advantage. Therefore, it may be said to young men who ask about going to Germany, "take a technical course here first, and then if you wish, go to Germany and broaden yourself.” The foreign method is suited to foreign conditions and our method to our conditions. But, while each is successful in its place, the writer feels very strongly that ours is the better method and that even in Germany still better results than are now attained would result were the lecture system not so freely used.

No reference has been made here to the advantages for post graduate study of special subjects in the German schools, which are often great, but there has been considered solely the ordinary undergraduate course.

Second. LABORATORY WORK.—The second point of difference to which your attention is called, and in which the comparison is much to the advantage of our schools, relates to the introduction of laboratory work as a means of instruction. It has already been said that the good teacher would find opportunity for train

« ÖncekiDevam »