Professor Hugo Munsterberg lectured before the Harvard and Radcliffe Graduate Clubs in Brooks House last night on "School Reforms." He said:
"The essential feature of all recent school reforms--or with a less question-begging title, school experiments or deteriorations--has been the tendency towards elective studies. We have on one side the desire to adjust the school work to the final purposes of the individual in practical life; which means beginning professional preparation in that period which has up to this time been given up to liberal education. We have on the other side the desire to adjust the school-work to the innate talents and likings of the individual; which means giving in the school-work no place to that which finds inner resistance in the pupi. In the first case the university method filters down to the school; in the second case the kindergarten creeps up; in the one case the liberal education of the school is replaced by professional education; in the other case the liberal education is replaced by liberal play. If one of the two tendencies were working alone, its imminent danger would be felt at once, but as they seem to cooperate, the one from the bottom, the other from the top, each hides for the moment the defects of the other.
"The higher the level from which the professional specializing begins, the more effective it is. German boys do not think of any specialization and individual variation before reaching a level corresponding to the college graduation. In this country the college must go on for a while playing the double role of a place for general education and a workshop for professional training, but at least the high school ought to be faithful to its only goal of general education without professional anticipations. The division of labor lies on the outside; we are specialists in our handiwork, but our heart-work is uniform, and the demand for individualized education emphasizes the small differences in our tasks, and ignores the great similarities. And finally, who is able to say what a boy of twelve years will need for his individual life's work?
"It is said that instruction must be adjusted to the natural instincts and tastes. The fallacy ought to be evident. All instruction which is good must be interesting--but it does not follow that all instruction which is interesting must also be good. To do what we like to do--that needs no pedagogical encouragement: water always runs down hill. . . . The chief point is, I think, that great dangers exist, and that the psycho-pedagogical movement does most damage, not because it so much affects the teacher, but because it, together with the elective studies, turns the attention of the public from the only essential and important point upon which, I feel deeply convinced, the true reform of our schools is dependent: the better instruction of our teachers."