American schools and colleges are guilty of dull and lifeless teaching is the conclusion of Kirtley F. Mather, professor of Geology, and his collaborator, Dorothy Hewitt, after five years of work in adult education.
The authors, founders and directors of the Boston Center for Adult Education, published the results of their experiment yesterday in "Adult Education, a Dynamic for Democracy," a description of their work in Boston since 1933.
Bad Effects of Puritanism
The trouble with the schools and colleges is that they have never really escaped from the effects of the "hard necessities of the pioneer days and the stern philosophy of the early Puritans," the educators assert.
One of the results in America is the "mistaken belief that anything worthwhile must be hard, dreary, and in general against the grain. The more uninviting and erudite a course in college, the greater is the intellectual distinction for taking it."
The ordinary college catalogue is held up as an outstanding indicator of the "drabness" of the usual formal education.
Another heavy guilt of the schools, Miss Hewitt and Dr. Mather charge, is that "no critical faculties are developed in the great majority of American citizens."
"Very few citizens have gained the ability to appraise facts and opinions. The majority, though grown to adulthood in years, all too often accept as absolute truth exactly what the person on the platform says or the book dictates.
"The main task before adult education is to awaken adults from this passivity."
On adult education America must ultimately depend for the invigorating of democracy and the defeat here of dictatorial trends, which have already captured much of Europe, Miss Hewitt and Dr. Mather believe.
They attribute the rise of dictatorships to the "spiritual exhaustion" of nations. "It is emotional fatigue which causes a people to abdicate in favor of supreme commissars or a reichsfuchrer or il duce. When the spiritual forces making for democracy are at a low ebb and the material conditions upon which mere existence depends are adverse, a vacuum is created into which a dictator may easily enter."
"It is the strongest hope for the creation of an adequate dynamic for democracy," they say, referring to the current boom in adult education.
Adults will likewise not tolerate the ordinary chronological method of teaching. Instead of beginning with Columbus and working down, American history must start with current events and work back.