Having interrupted our train of thought in regard to the subject of teacher training for the past two issues, it will do no harm to try to catch the connection a bit, before plunging into the material itself.
Thus far we have established the necessity of specifically Protestant Reformed training, and are proceeding on the supposition that the aim of those who seek Protestant Reformed education for their children is also to have teachers with Protestant Reformed training. And we trust that the obstacles which lie on the path to the attainment of this goal will not be viewed as insurmountable by those concerned.
In the second place, we have insisted, also in regard to the establishment of our own teacher training facilities, upon the principle of parental responsibility, not ecclesiastical responsibility. The calling of the parents “to instruct their children in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power” includes the responsibility for good instructors. This follows from the truth that good instruction is simply impossible without good instructors. Those, parents, therefore, who take no vital interest in the supplying of instructors for their children, who, when they send their children off to school, think that there the parental responsibility ends, very definitely abandon their responsibility. The parent stands responsible for all the instruction which is given in school, for every word spoken, for every method used, for every approach to the subject material taken. And that responsibility can never be abrogated. It follows, then, that the parent individually, or the parents collectively, are responsible to provide their children with proper instructors. And if, as we have established, this responsibility cannot be fulfilled unless those instructors receive Protestant Reformed normal training, then it follows that the parents are ultimately responsible to provide such training.
This stand, as we have seen in our last installment under this chapter, is contrary to the course which has usually been taken in the establishment of higher educational facilities. The principle of ecclesiastical responsibility has been overwhelmingly maintained in the course of history. The church-established normal school and college, and even university, is a very common thing. But this makes fundamentally no difference. We must not be swept along in this current, but maintain the correct Reformed principle of parental responsibility and of separation, the physical separation, of church and school. I mention this again because it has much bearing on the two remaining questions which we must answer in connection with teacher training, and especially has bearing on the practical question of how we must attain our goal. We had better be realistic from the start, and understand that from the practical viewpoint this principle is simply another obstacle in the road to our own teacher training facilities. It means we shall have to go against the current. It means we shall have to put out of mind the notion that we can simply look to mother church to provide us with a normal school. It means that any normal school we establish shall not come from funds accumulated by synodical assessment, but by the same old method of saving and scraping and holding drives,—hard work, willing sacrifice, enthusiastic spirit, generous giving. It means, as we have said, that the full and real responsibility for the actual establishment of teacher training facilities, and all that it implies, rests squarely on the very same parents, societies of parents, and school boards who have by dint of much hard labor and sacrifice established our grade schools. The very same problems will be faced, to a large extent. The problem of finance, the multitudinous problems of building, location, etc., the problems of organization, the problems of personnel,—all these will stare you in the face in grimly realistic fashion. Make no mistake about that. Let us be realistic There is no easy way out.
As has been intimated, two main questions remain to be answered. They are interrelated, and are largely questions of a practical nature. I have no stock answer for these questions. And I believe that they will have to be faced actually by those officially concerned, viz. the societies, and especially the school boards, and eventually those who are charged with the responsibility of executing the plan to establish a normal school. Circumstances will have much to do with the eventual answers to these questions. A happy medium will have to be struck between our ideal of the Protestant Reformed Normal School and the means which are at hand, always, however, keeping in view the ideal. Research and study, careful planning and meticulous execution of plans, will be important elements in answering these questions.
The questions are: 1. What are the minimum requirements of such a Protestant Reformed normal course? What is absolutely necessary in such a course? 2. How can this goal be attained? How can we arrive at the stage where we make an actual beginning in training our own teachers?
As To Minimum Requirements
As I have said, I have no stock answer to this question. To set an absolute minimum as to what courses must be taught, how extensive or intensive they must be etc., is impossible at the present stage. Besides, I am no educational expert, though I have a speaking acquaintance with these matters. Furthermore, we must not forget that a course in education is a unity, a unified whole, with all the various subjects and fields of study closely interwoven and interrelated. In reality, there is no end to the education of a teacher. Nevertheless, just as you can strip a house of all its trimmings and luxuries and non-essentials, so that you have left a mere four walls and roof, so you can strip a course of education of all the non-essentials, and have left nothing but the fundamentals of the course. Mark this, I do not say this is ideal: it is far from it. Nor must we be satisfied permanently with these bare fundamentals,—no more than we rest satisfied with a mere four walls and a roof for a house when and if we have the means to build a modern house, beautifully decorated, conveniently equipped, luxuriously furnished. But . . . necessity is the mother of invention. And . . . we are talking now only about beginnings. I am of the opinion that many of us may have to learn, especially in view of the fact that we have become accustomed to using educational facilities of others, and attending full-fledged colleges,—learn to be satisfied with perhaps a rather humble and lowly beginning. But what of it? We are interested in the principle, are we not? Why cannot our own Normal School, if necessary, be as lowly an institution as our Theological School, which is still being conducted, if you will pardon the reference to Fuller Avenue’s basement, in a hole in the ground? If only the fundamental thing, the quality and proper content of the instruction, may be obtained, then all is well. But in the meantime, let not necessity drive us into a hole either from which we never emerge!
In order, then, to come to some conclusion as to what we should expect in an infant normal school, let us, first of all, get a general view of the course offered in a full-fledged normal school. In doing so we can attempt somewhat to classify the material, and, at the same time come to some understanding as to what is essential.
First of all, we may mention those subjects which belong strictly to a course for teachers. Usually included in this classification are the following:
1) A Course in the Principles of Education. Certainly, such a course is the foundation stone of any course for teachers. It cannot be excluded. The proper principles of education, Protestant Reformed principles, must before all else be inculcated into our teachers. In general, such a course would include the delineation of Reformed, Scriptural principles concerning the educand, the education, and the educator, the child, the subject material and the teacher.
2) Closely allied, and perhaps, for that reason, not immediately essential as a separate course, would be a course in the Philosophy of Education. Especially if such a course concerns the history of educational philosophy, it would not be immediately necessary. Nevertheless, it should be added as soon as feasible, I would say, especially from the point of view that it prepares the teacher to defend himself both in theory and practice against the many winds of false philosophy.
3) Certainly to be classified as essential is a thorough course either in general psychology or educational psychology, preferably the latter.
This classification we will continue next time, D. V.