The Deadly Parallel

A. J. Kempner

(The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 46, No. 5. (May, 1939), p. 280.)

Readers of the MONTHLY may be interested in two excerpts from the daily press:

I. (From the Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Friday, February 10, 1939).

At the Annual Regional Study Conference of the Progressive Education Association, Denver, Colorado, Dr. Lois Hayden Meek, Professor of Education at Columbia University, is quoted as saying: "Intelligent supervision and encouragement of such group relationship at that time is of far greater importance in the future education of the youth than cut and dried history or mathematics... It is my opinion we should not have so many specialists on our teaching staffs. ... A better method would be to have one teacher teach more subjects and have longer and more frequent contact with pupils, studying more carefully the individual problems of each. The function of such a teacher would not hinge so much on knowing the subjects to be taught as on knowing how to arrange and present such subjects so they could be most readily learned." (Italics mine - AJK.)

II. (From the Denver Post, Saturday, February 11, 1939, reporting opinions of students at the same conference).

A high school senior from Northern Colorado: "Everything would be fine if we had good teachers. You've been talking a lot about dull subjects that should be dropped from the curriculum. Those subjects are dull because the teachers are dull. If all our teachers were alert and interesting, there would be no such thing as wasted courses. Even a course in Latin would be fun and would accomplish real education if the teacher presented it the right way."

A college student: "It's all a matter of the personality of the teacher. All of these proposed drastic changes in the method of education would be unnecessary if teachers generally had a real understanding of what young people want. We don't resist learning. As a matter of fact we're anxious to learn. All we ask is that there be some pleasure, some intellectual excitement in the process... . Every student knows there are some teachers in whose classes he would like to spend much more time than allotted. When the student fidgets and waits impatiently for the bell to ring, it is the fault of the teacher, not the fault of the subject."

May it be that we have overlooked our best allies in our fight for a sound education based on fundamentals,-the students themselves?

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