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The Cultural Motive in the School
ISAAC B. BURGESS, CAMBRIDGE LATIN SCHOOL
HEMES of this nature are apt to be treated somewhat abstractly and in general terms. I should like to make my treatment to-day very concrete, and, if you will pardon me, draw upon my own experience unreservedly. At the very outset something should be said as to the sense in which the word culture is used. Can we do
better than to go to Matthew Arnold's much discussed and classic treatment in “Culture and Anarchy.” You will remember the now hackneyed phrase, “sweetness and light,” or as he defines the words, beauty and intelligence.
Culture,” says Arnold, “is the harmonious expansion of all the powers which make the beauty and worth of human nature.”
This is a broad conception, and comprehends physical and moral and social development, but all of these must be for the love of development, and the joy of securing it, and what is most essential in my discussion to-day, it is not development for vocation, or in order to surpass some one else. Both of these motives, worthful as they are, are to be discussed by others. It may be that the performance of a single action will involve emulative, vocational and cultural motives, but this paper will try to confine itself simply to the cultural aspect of the act in mind.
We must hasten to the main theme of this paper, which is, I take it, how shall we make the cultural motive more fully operative in the minds of pupils at school? First, and most important of all, it must be done by a teacher who himself understands what culture is, and who loves it with his whole being. But the number of those who can really impart culture is yet smaller than this would indicate, for not only must the man be cultured himself, but he must be in perfect sympathy with young people in the secondary school. As Henry Sedgwick well says on page fifty-four of his Miscellaneous Essays, “Culture, like all spiritual gifts, can be propagated only by enthusiasm, and by enthusiasm that has got rid of asperity, that has become sympathetic." The secondary teacher, if he would teach culture, must keep himself on the ground as well as in the air, and his relations with his pupils must be as natural and simple and homelike as possible.
Some of us have heard the enthusiastic assertion from recent graduates of Princeton that the system of meeting in little groups with the instructor has revolutionized the institution, and really brought culture to the boys. In order to do that the boy must see his teacher in the most natural and unstudied relations. I have heard my father tell many times how he used to see Dr. Wayland working in his garden, and have no doubt that Dr. Wayland was nearer to the boys because they saw that side of his life.
My point is simply that if teachers are to help human beings they must be human, and show their human traits in the simple forms in which they can be understood.
The very extensive adornment of our school buildings with pictures and statuary, and the formation of art leagues in many places composed of mothers and teachers, show a wide-spread belief in the influence of cultural surroundings; such a belief is thoroughly well founded. Pictures and statuary have their influence by their mere presence, but this influence can be greatly enhanced if suitable means are taken to actually use these objects in instruction. In many schoolhouses are plants and flowers, and in some small animals are kept, and where animals are not kept reference to pets at home, and stories, oral and written, about such pets diffuse a distinctly cultural influence. One can hardly fail to be impressed with the influence of the wonderfully tame squirrels and pigeons on the Harvard campus.
The attitude toward helpless animals, which has brought this about, must have a deep influence on the whole institution; and the influence of the animals is increased by the fact that they draw women and little children into the campus to play with them. The whole effect is to make the atmosphere of the college yard not only more kindly but more homelike, and to civilize any college barbarian who
may get into it. The Cambridge papers announced one day this winter that Prof. Charles Eliot Norton was paying so much a bushel to the boys near his country home for acorns, that the squirrels of Cambridge might not suffer. It is more than an accident that this professor, so famous for his cultural influence, should be just the one to remember the squirrels. Such an influence as that of these birds and animals is not impossible for preparatory schools.
Song is an influence which I have seen extremely powerful. Some years ago, in our academy at Morgan Park, the principal, who was a singer, started the custom of devoting one chapel period a week wholly to singing songs that the pupils liked. These were largely national and college songs, just such as had plenty of dash and swing, and would stir broad sympathies. In learning a new song a few simple suggestions were given as to how to sing it, but the correct rendering of the teacher who played the piano, and the teacher who led the chorus, and then repetition were relied on to produce the desired effect. There was no hint of task work, and no suggestion of the ultra-artistic. The weekly sing became a recognized and prized institution. Sometimes an evening was given to it in addition, and the habit spread into the dormitory parlors. Many a homesick boy, and many a “knocker" was helped by it. Furthermore, one good thing immediately suggests another. If colleges had their songs, why should not Morgan Park Academy have its song? A committee of the boys raised a little money, and offered a prize for the best school song ; and one was selected which, while of no remarkable merit, voiced a bit of appropriate sentiment, and was sung with increasing gusto and expression as the years went on. The night the school ceased to be that song was the last thing.
We have all seen little boys displaying their muscle, and boasting of it to one another. What is the origin of this practice? Is it simply a desire to have strength to put it over the next guy,” as I have heard a boy express it, or is there here a certain joy “in the expansion of all the powers which make the beauty and worth of human nature," to borrow Arnold's suggestive phrase. I am inclined to think that there is a good deal of the latter from what I have seen among boys themselves. They do take a good deal of pride in their own personal physical development; the same sort of pleasure which is expressed in some of the poems of Walt Whitman and Bayard Taylor.
I feel sure that the athletic interest in our secondary schools, fraught with danger as it is from its excessively competitive character, does contain distinctly cultural elements. I may mention, in addition to the symmetrical bodily development, the cheerfulness of spirit which comes from sound physical health, the splendid fellowship of athletic teams, both when they are working together on the field and when they are traveling from place to place, the courtesy shown toward opponents, shown notable in the well-established practice of cheering the opposing team at the close, whether you beat or are beaten, the control of one's temper under provocation, and the immensely valuable habit of yielding to the law as expressed by the decision of the umpire. Many of these things of course have distinct vocational value, but it is equally true that they make every man who possesses them more of a man whether he has a vocation or not.
The association of boys in athletics leads me to speak of the high cultural value of other student associations, such as the editorial board of the school paper, the literary society, the dramatic club, etc. Many of these associations are doing work identical or very similar to that which is being done in the class room, but the fact that the task is self-imposed and done for the love of it makes it often even more fruitful than class-room work. A great danger is that these associations, frowned down or merely tolerated by the school authorities, will not have the ideals or the direction which are essential to success, and so, instead of being the largest help, will become a constant source of uneasiness. I feel confident that under a wise, sympathetic teacher, having the oversight of a specific interest, results can be secured quite as fine as those secured in the class room. And boys, under normal conditions, welcome the teacher's help. My own experience has been especially full with reference to literary societies. I consider them the strongest ally of good school government that I know. In their societies the boys see the reasonableness and the necessity of such government. Training in debate is broadening, and the fellowship between students may be made of the very highest value.
One of our institutions at Morgan Park was a student council composed of representative boys of high character and representing different student interests, who met with a committee of the faculty regularly for the discussion of matters of interest to all. Valuable in school discipline, it was also valuable as a means of moral culture for the boys.
I have, as yet, said nothing about the cultural motive in the actual class-room work. I will begin with my own department
-Latin. Much of the work of acquiring the technique of a language must be other than cultural except in a remote sense ; but while this is so, I wish to insist most strongly that cultural motives may have great weight. Even in syntax a comparison between the method of expressing ideas in English and Latin may, from the start, be made very broadening. The study of words is coming more and more to the front, and many of our wisest Latin teachers believe that much time which has, in the past, been given to syntax, should be given to this study. The process by which meanings develop from root ideas, and the historical associations of words supply distinctly cultural material. Such a book as Trench's “ Study of Words," or the much more recent “ Words and Their Ways in English Speech,” by Greenough and Kittredge, show what I mean. I speak of these cultural possibilities in syntax and word study because I am not willing to give over even the first year of Latin study to entirely mechanical work. Just a little later comes the immense possibility of translation, even in simple authors. Every American ought to feel genuine pride in the work done by Professor Gildersleeve of Johns Hopkins and by Professor Lane of Harvard in translation. I have reference especially to the way in which the examples for syntactical illustration are translated in Gildersleeve's and in Lane's grammars. The translations of some of the most hackneyed examples are monuments of taste, breadth of view and sympathy; and best of all the translations follow the Latin so closely that the elementary student can understand