Dean Briggs has an article in the October number of the "Atlantic Monthly" on "Some Old-Fashioned Doubts about New-Fashioned Education." In this article Dean Briggs expresses some doubts as to whether the best results are to be obtained by the "new-fashioned" education in its increasing tendency to mould itself with too great pliability, to individual traits and tendencies. "With the kindergarten at one end of our education and with the elective system at the other we see, or seem to see a falling off in the vigor with which men attack distasteful but useful things,--a shrinking from the old resolute education." "The new product, the educated man of today, is in some measure the necessity of the time. The demands of a special calling require preparation so early and so long that the all-round man--that invaluable species which has leavened and civilized all society--bids fair to be soon as extinct as the dodo."
The new education especially emphasizes three principles: that education should always recognize the fitness of different minds for different work; that the process of education need not be and should not be, forbidding; that in earlier systems of education, natural science had not a fair place. These three principles are emancipatory but Dean Briggs questions whether the emancipation had not been carried too far. It is generally accepted that at some stage of education the elective system is desirable, but that it should extend down with more or less modification through college to grammar school, as the present tendency seems to be, is in Dean Briggs' mind a not wholly advisable scheme. "Are we sure that we do not begin the elective system too early, or that we shall not soon begin it too early?" is the author's first question.
Again by the adoption of attractive and easy methods of work, with a careful regard to individual trails, the attempt to make education less forbidding, carried too far has resulted in robbing education of much of its mental discipline. The children brought up "along the lines of least resistance" are most often the intellectually spoiled children, "flabby of mind and will." "Education should first and foremost train; and training had for its very substance the overcoming of obstacles; furthermore, every specialty is better mastered, better understood in its relation to human life and achievement, by the man who has worked hard in other subjects.
Dean Briggs asks if the enjoyment we wish to put into education as sufficiently robust, and also, granting we approve of an elective system in College, whether the secondary and grammer schools should follow in the same path.
Another comment on the "new fashioned education" concerns what is expected of teachers. The value that is set on text-books induce teacher to give up a great part of their time to writing. Dean Briggs regards this value as overrated. The first duty of the teacher is to teach, writing should be a secondary affair, and not something on which to estimate an instructors worth, as the new education seems to do. By encouraging independent writing and research, it is possible that we have been unfitting the teachers, as teachers, for the student.