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THE NEW YORK
ASTOR, LENOX AND
INTRODUCTION TO THE HOME READING
BOOK SERIES BY THE EDITOR.
The new education takes two important directions-one of these is toward original observation, requiring the pupil to test and verify what is taught him at school by his own experiments. The information that he learns from books or hears from his teacher's lips must be assimilated by incorporating it with his own experience.
The other direction pointed out by the new education is systematic home reading. It forms a part of school extension of all kinds. The so-called “ University Extension” that originated at Cambridge and Oxford has as its chief feature the aid of home reading by lectures and round-table discussions, led or conducted by experts who also lay out the course of reading. The Chautauquan movement in this country prescribes a series of excellent books and furnishes for a goodly number of its readers annual courses of lectures. The teachers' reading circles that exist in many States prescribe the books to be read, and publish some analysis, commentary, or catechism to aid the members.
Home reading, it seems, furnishes the essential basis of this great movement to extend education
beyond the school and to make self-culture a habit of life.
Looking more carefully at the difference between the two directions of the new education we can see what each accomplishes. There is first an effort to train the original powers of the individual and make him self-active, quick at observation, and free in his thinking. Next, the new education endeavors, by the reading of books and the study of the wisdom of the race, to make the child or youth a participator in the results of experience of all mankind.
These two movements may be made antagonistic by poor teaching. The book knowledge, containing as it does the precious lesson of human experience, may be so taught as to bring with it only dead rules of conduct, only dead scraps of information, and no stimulant to original thinking. Its contents may
be memorized without being understood. On the other hand, the self-activity of the child may be stimulated at the expense of his social well-being-his originality
— may be cultivated at the expense of his rationality. If he is taught persistently to have his own way, to trust only his own senses, to cling to his own opinions heedless of the experience of his fellows, he is preparing for an unsuccessful, misanthropic career, and is likely enough to end his life in a madhouse.
It is admitted that a too exclusive study of the knowledge found in books, the knowledge which is aggregated from the experience and thought of other people, may result in loading the mind of the pupil with material which he can not use to advantage.