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Ragtime in Education

February 1925.

Just now there is a widespread epidemic in specialization and standardization. Byond a reasonable doubt specialization and standardization have a place in our so-called educational system. Fifty years ago our daughters actually learned how to knit, sew and cook under the tuition of their mothers. Now they are required to learn these arts under the name of domestic science in our high schools. Fifty years ago our sons learned how to use a hammer, a saw, and other common tools at home under the direction of their fathers. Now they are supposed to learn the use of thse tools in the Manual Training departments of our high schools. These two changes are illustrations of a powerful tendency in education to shift responsibilities from the home to the school. Not infrequently, twentieth century parents ask our American teachers to train children in the fine art of obedience. Parents admit their own failure in securing obedience. NOw there is a powerful movement on foot to make the teaching of morals in our public schools compulsory. Numerous textbooks on morals have been written and recommended for school use. Thus education is over-sectionalized, over-specialized, and over-standardized. The truth of the matter is there are no short cuts to the building of men and women. Worthwhile education begins on the day of one's birth and ends on the day of one's death. The home is the unit organization of society and state. Obedience and the other fundamental virtues involve something more than precept and textbook. The home must perform this function. The school must do its share in continuing the training begun in the home. One of the great educational problems of the twentieth century is how to secure the cooperation of home and school. The public school should in its domestic science and the arts be open to the mothers and sisters of those pursuing this course. Mothers and daughters should work together. The schools as a rule have ample facilities for cooking, sewing, etc., while many of the homes have very poor facilities. One of the problems of domestic science is how to do much with little. A high school girl may become alienated from her home through the embarrassing difference in conditions and facilities.

In manual training the same criticism holds true.

Unfortunately our schools have come to sympathize with foolish parents with reference to the necessity of work.

Every subject, every task, must be made easy. Every red-blooded man knows that real life involves difficulties which neccessitate hard work. Probably the underlying dominant motive of most parents is that of high school, business, college or professional training means "getting a living without much work." Well organized work is the panacea for nearly "all the ills that flesh is heir to." Work is even a therapy agent, especially that form of work that is distinctively manual. If one more law could be added to our present code and enforced, it would be a law requiring every able-bodied person to perform daily a certain amount of physical labor in order to save his soul from hell. Intelligent people know that hell still exists. The schools like the churches are using all manner of devices in order to get their members just to do a little work.

No sensible educator so much as wants to discard recreation, play and amusements. On the other hand efficient school work, not play, should be the dominant aim. School should not be regarded as a convenience, but as an efficient work-shop. The schools are attempting too much. Too many subjects are taught both in our private and public schools. Only a smattering of subjects is presented. Teachers cannot do the impossible with large classes, in a minimum of time. It is high time that the homes and schools cooperated in teaching a few things so that they will "stick." A very large part of the "new education" like the "new psychology" is a snare and a delusion. We are deluged with ragtime music, ragtime eduction, ragtime government and ragtime religion. Just at present there are indications that these ragtime activities may further degenerate and assume the rotten form of jazz.


Source: Ferris, Woodbridge N. "Ragtime in Education. School Bulletin. February 1925: 6.


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