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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
With the centennial of Horace Mann at hand it is worth the University's while not only to examine the Graduate School of Education, which Mann would have recognized as perhaps the American leader in its field, but to suggest possible ways of improving it. Since 1891, when Paul Hanus came to Harvard, Education has been abused and opposed by professors not anxious to have their methods or ideas of teaching criticized and indirectly discarded. Like a talented child who alone knows the weakness of his parent, the School has been suppressed by the minds of the college Faculty and neglected by alumni. No other capital gifts have ever supplemented the original endowment of two million dollars.
The idea clung to by academic men, namely, that one cannot teach a teacher to teach, has been exploded by the results of Dean Holmes's School in the seventeen years of its separate existence. The School attempts two jobs and does them well; it trains teachers, who must know, besides methods of instruction, educational psychology, mental hygiene, and statistical means of measuring growth and achievement. Through a cooperative arrangement with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, launched in 1935, the teacher must also be thoroughly acquainted with the subject he is to teach. The second job, the technical training of superintendents, headmasters, directors of vocational education, school psychologists, and educational statisticians, is altogether different; students in this field must learn the material by case study and investigation of actual conditions, as well as by instruction.
Of recent years the educational policy of the University has shown a tendency to favor research to the disadvantage of teaching. To some extent the emphasis of research over teaching has penetrated even the School, for there appears to be a marked stress on courses in educational science--all excellently presented by such first-rate men as Truman Kelley, Spaulding, and Wilson.
It is encouraging, however, at the same time, to see the number of courses in educational philosophy and sociology, taught by such as Robert Ulich and Holmes, increase. Even more attention can be paid to questions involving the function of education in the larger social and philosophical sense, its effect on democracy, its definition. Such a lack of emphasis, though not a fundamental weakness to the organization of the School, has sent a few of the best students to other colleges for teachers, like Columbia or Chicago, which offer a more comprehensive program.
One reason why the School has not forged far ahead of its nearest rivals seems to be that the University as a whole has lately been functioning under a policy calculated in theory to strike a careful balance between research and teaching, but which in practice has tended to emphasize research. The Faculty idea that pure intellectual training and research should be the most important elements in the making of teachers shows to what degree the spirit of research has permeated University minds and out-balanced that of teaching. The weakness of the School in this respect appears one particular proof that the University is flying the wrong flag of educational emphasis.
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