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Business Education. (January 1886.)

So frequently have the "shortcomings" of the public schools been set forth that the work of reform is thoroughly under way. The "new education" is commanding alike the attention of teachers and patrons. Teachers have come to realize that the school is for the child, and not the child for the school; that the child is to be developed, physically, mentally and morally. To bring about this development the teacher must know something about the laws of child growth. An insight into these laws has led to the adoption of new methods in teaching reading, numbers, language, spelling, etc. The public schools are, indeed, progressive.

Now what can be said of Business Colleges? To what extent have their proprietors and teachers been influenced by the "new education?" How many of them are in the front rank of the great army of teachers? If their catalogues and circulars contain correct statements of their educational views, no one need hesitate in saying that the majority of them are a decade behind the times. They claim to advocate "practical education," but at the same time fail to present a course of study worthy of a business man's serious consideration, in fact that do not seem to have systemized the means for thoroughly meeting the needs of the average student. The student has usually asked for bookkeeping and penmanship. His wish has been granted. His training has been narrow and unsatisfactory. He has not been introduced to a course of study based on actual needs of the great business world.

It must be a very limited course of study which even attempts to prepare the average young man or young woman for "the actual duties of life" in three months. True business educators will have little to say to the student about graduating in three or any number of months. His inquiries will be concerning what the student knows when admitted, what he needs, and just how these needs can best be met. It takes time to train the majority of those who ask for a business education. It can not be done in ten weeks, three months or even six months, and it savors of quackery to advertise that it can be done in so short a time. Business Colleges will soon be forced to present a broad and thorough course of training.

Quackery in another form, the "life scholarship," lingers about the Business College. This is one of the most ingenious devices for encouraging idleness, for stimulating a pupil to actually take what does not belong to him, for putting a worse than useless burden upon the teacher. It is ridiculous for schools to claim to educate for business, and then be guilty of a practice which is unbusinesslike in every respect. In business it is hoped that a man will pay for what he gets. Why not adopt the same principle in determining the matter of tuitions?

In many catalogues and circulars individual instruction" receives much emphasis. Beyond a doubt it is valuable and ought to receive marked attention. Class drill, however, can not be ignored in the "live school." Individual and class instruction should go together, in order to secure the very best results. Individual instruction frequently means an occasional answer by the teacher, which a pupil can not obtain from his neighbor. In real life, men come in direct contact with one another. Why not bring students in contact with one another in pursuing book-keeping, arithmetic, language, etc. Business Colleges can not afford to let pupils drift along in their own way, going "as they please." Something more substantial must be insisted upon, something more business-like must be required.

A word concerning text books. It is to be regretted that teachers who claim to be practical persist in using arithmetics which contain printed answers. It is absolutely essential that business computations possess the characteristic of accuracy. This characteristic is not within the reach of learners who "fall back" upon printed results. The clerk or accurate accountant is self-reliant, thoughtful and careful. Would it not be well to throw aside printed answers and train pupils to reason, to verify and know that they are right.

The same criticism can be justly hurled at the use of book-keeping textbooks, which give the majority of computations, (especially those involving interest and discount), the trial balances and balance sheets in full. Even business college students "learn to do by doing," not by having everything done for them.

The Business Colleges have done and are doing a grand work, but are they really keeping pace with the demands of the times? Are they diligently searching for better methods? What answers have business educators for these questions?

Source: Ferris, Woodbridge. "Business Education." Useful Education. (Big Rapids, Michigan: n.p., 1886), 2.