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One of the problems in any educational endeavor is to decide what shall be taught. The answer to this problem in the school for the adult is and always should be the proper selection and presentation of such material as will serve his practical needs. The school time of the adult is necessarily brief. It must not be wasted by occupying his time with content which is of no use to him.
The purpose of the content and pedagogical principles offered in the following pages is to suggest the possibilities and methods of instruction in the school for the adult. They are not offered as a basis for standardized courses of instruction; such courses would defeat the purposes of the adult school. It behooves the teacher in each and every case to ascertain what phases of instruction the students want and need. They usually come with some specific educational desires in mind, and if these are not satisfied they will not remain in school any length of time.
The adult who needs to supplement his education belongs to one or the other of the following groups: the immigrant who has only a very slight working knowledge of English, the foreign-born who has a mediocre working knowledge of English, and the American-born who has failed to receive elementary education in childhood. Of these three groups the first and second leave the
school as soon as they have gained a practical knowledge of English, at which point, in most instances, they believe they have attained all that is necessary or helpful.
Very often they are correct, for, in the past, much of the instruction offered, beyond this basic study of English, has not been adaptable to their needs. Even the methods of teaching beginners the English language have been confusing and discouraging to the newcomer. Nor have the plans of instruction hitherto sufficiently catered to the needs of intermediate and advanced students. The possibilities have not been fully measured. Students with this basic knowledge of English are just at the point where through further effective schooling they can be led to form a new and correct interpretation of their adopted country and its institutions. This would lead them to attain an intelligent citizenry which is to be desired above all else.
The third group, the American-born, have been difficult to interest in further education, because the fundamentals of instruction which they have missed in childhood have not been presented in such a way as to be of practical and vital interest and to bear directly upon their vocational needs.
The conclusions of the foregoing rationalization indicate the need for justifying every subject herein offered. The study of language is the means for attaining that understanding of men and things without which adequate and sympathetic human relationships can neither be established nor maintained. To express concisely one's thoughts is a convenience; to express with grace and fluency one's desires gives pleasure; and to express with force and precision lends conviction; but to make one's self understood is the basis of sympathy. It may seem
over-ambitious to expect to realize with the immigrant student and the more or less literate American-born adult students the above aims in language instruction. The intermediate or advanced student has, however, attained great enough power in the English language that he senses the possibilities and the value of perfecting his speech.
The study of history should give a panoramic view of the growth of America, its problems, its advantages, and, finally, it must be so humanly presented as to give truly the spirit that typifies life in America.
The study of government should suggest that the ideal government is democracy; that democracy has been attained only through the constant struggle for freedom and the actual participation of all the people in the institutions of government.
The study of geography should enable the adult student to gain such a general and practical knowledge of his environment as will assist him in understanding the interdependence of people in obtaining food, clothing, and shelter. The multiplicity of modern inventions which have aided in obtaining these needs makes it necessary that we develop a sense of values, else in the hands of the indiscriminate or ignorant these instruments of progress become dangerous tools.
Two subjects usually included in curricula for adultimmigrant groups will not receive consideration per se, since it was deemed wiser to approach them indirectly, or rather to inculcate them in branches of study already mentioned. They are hygiene and patriotism.
The teaching of hygiene has frequently been offensive because it has overestimated trivial differences in custom that appear on the surface to be matters of health and
sanitation. Many of us have considered ourselves superior to the foreign-born from the hygienic standpoint, while we have overlooked the fact that they may be as healthy and robust as we are, even though their habits may differ radically from ours. The laws of health, sanitation, and hygiene should be taught as an integral part of civics study in order that the student may see their social as well as personal bearing upon all life about him. The fetich of hygiene for its own sake must be supplanted by instruction in the laws of health based on careful scientific research.
The teaching of the principles of patriotism has followed dogmatic conceptions and ceremonial to the extent that there has been a failure to inspire a patriotism founded on genuine regard for the country of one's home and work. Nor has sufficient thought been given to the place of patriotism in relation to the problems of international significance which to-day are constantly calling into question ideals we formerly held important for the welfare of one's country. Patriotism in its best sense can be inspired only through study of past and current history of the leading countries of our time.
This volume is an attempt to furnish the teacher of the adult student a comprehensive survey of methods of instruction, tentative outlines of study, with special consideration of aims and scope in presenting such subjects as language work, government, history, geography, arithmetic, and spelling. In fact, adult education is reflected upon from the methods of teaching language to beginners in English, and the instruction in the elements of knowledge, to the methods of teaching reading and writing to the adult student who can neither read nor write in any language. And, finally, the question of grading
immigrant students on the basis of their previous education and their accomplishment in the new language has received very careful attention. The language-accomplishment tests are the results of experimental work carried on in the night schools of Cleveland, covering a period of several years.
The authors have approached this study of adult education and its needs in the belief that the adult may have educational needs equal in importance to those of the child. If we attempt at all to teach the adult, why not give him the benefit of as much serious effort as we give the child in the day-school? Teaching and supervising experience in the night-schools over a period of several years has proved that when the adult does, fortunately, find well-planned instruction of practical value and a highly organized school, he continues to attend until he attains his end.
The arrangement or basic scheme of this volume has therefore a definite aim and plan. Each part is exclusive and yet all are interdependent. Part I is devoted entirely to the methods of instruction. Part II outlines sample courses of study. Part III considers measurement of language and educational accomplishment; and Part IV considers typical literary content of value in the intermediate and advanced grades particularly. The subjects have been treated in the order in which questions regarding them in the night-schools are apt to arise. The first problem is that of teaching language; the second, that of supplementing previous education to fit the individual for practical life in his new home; the third, school organization based on accurate grading schemes; and, fourth, literary content within the grasp of the learner and of special value and interest to the adult.