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President Angell's annual report contains a timely reminder of the fact that American education, though externally divided into primary, secondary, and "higher" education, is after all one inter-connected whole. A change in one part will induce changes in other parts, and no great reform can be effected until all parts are taken into account. The preparation which their students receive in secondary schools sets limits to what the colleges can reasonably hope to attain, while the colleges in turn profoundly influence the schools, by setting standards, defining the curriculum, and training teachers. Less attention has been paid to the far-reaching effects of primary and intermediate education. President Angell refers to the fact that the American boy, as compared with his British and Continental cousin, somewhere loses about two years. The graduate of a French lycee at the age of sixteen years, for example, is in scholastic attainment about two years ahead of American youth of the same age. Indirectly this is in part the effect of conditions that no one would wish to see duplicated in America, such as military service, economic pressure, and extreme standardization of instruction. There is also in America a cult of play and sport that contributes both to health and to social experience, as well as to happiness.
These are compensations, but they should not blind us to the fact that there is, as President Angell delouse a "retardation" which "inheres in the whole educational system from top to bottom." There would be comparatively little harm in waste of time if time were the only thing lost. But too slow a pace breeds habits of idleness, or, rather, prevents the formation of habits of work at the time when these habits can be most painlessly and fruitfully acquired.
In France a child ten years of age is already accustomed to study, while in America "home work" appears at a comparatively late stage and is likely to be regarded as an extraordinary hardship. As a result many a boy finds himself on the last lap of what is supposed to be his education without ever having learned to study. Regardless of all other factors, there is a pretty constant ratio between attainment and application, and until the American boy begins seriously to exert himself from an earlier age it is not likely that any other reforms will greatly affect the age of his intellectual maturity--Harvard Alumni Bulletin.
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