Page images
PDF
EPUB

cessive years to the course than through the gradual specializing of an ordinary high school curriculum. Indeed this view is borne out by the experience of the Hillhouse high school in New Haven with an admirably outlined three years' course and by the development in Paterson, N.J., of a commercial department in the city high school into practically a distinct school operated in a separate building by an entirely independent faculty, with a special course of two years, requiring one year of secondary study for admission.

To attempt any comparison of the relative value of commercial training in the cities mentioned would not be difficult but is perhaps needless. All of the courses offered should be judged not alone for what they are to-day. Rather should they be reviewed from the point of view of the ultimate standard, for they are changing from year to year and the best mode of reaching the final form depends on local conditions. What is desirable seems perfectly clear. First of all the course of study should be at least four years. We cannot successfully defend commercial instruction in the public high school unless the work is planned as broadly educative as any other of the secondary courses. Superintendent Pearse of Omaha struck the right note in an address before the Business teachers' association, when he insisted that the student should get as much drill, as much discipline, as much education, out of a commercial course as he would get out of other high school courses." Secondly, the course should be thoroughly outlined as distinctly commercial. A mere substitution of a few business studies in the usual English course does not make for commercial training and such action is not only an inadequate provision for present needs, but it is destructive of future possibilities. Properly planned, a course of instruction may bear the stamp of its purpose in every part, and at the same time lose not a whit, but on the contrary, by unity and close connection, gain decidedly in general educative value. This means necessarily, in the larger cities at any rate, a separate corps of teachers. A separate building is strongly desirable, not only on the ground of superior adaptability for the uses of a commercial school, but for the far weightier consideration of absolute independence in fact, and full differentiation in the public thought. Secondary education of the manual training type is to-day years ahead of the development which would have been possible if the separate manual training high schools had not been established. Place the commercial course in the ordinary high school largely under the charge of the present teaching force and you rob the new movement of half its possibilities. The problem of working out good secondary business education needs all the freedom that is feasible; it can be solved only by independent faculties with every member intent on the questions of his own department, of course, but also grappling with the problem of the entire scheme of studies. Under these conditions an esprit de corps will be aroused, greatly conducive to the final success of this feature in the system of public instruction. When a few such independent schools have wrestled with and solved the problem of commercial instruction, the ordinary schools will have a better basis for “commercial courses.” With these considerations in view, we can readily say that between the two-year, strictly commercial course of Washington for example, and the four-year course slightly specialized, of some other cities, the choice should be made not on the basis of what is offered now, but of approximation to the real type, namely, a well-planned, fully-specialized scheme of commercial training covering at least four years of secondary grade. This standard of secondary commercial training has been more nearly approximated in Philadelphia than in any other American city. In 1898 a department of commerce was established in connection with the Central high school, and the following study-plan was adopted:

*See the Practical Age, February, 1899, p. 36.

[blocks in formation]

For reasons of expedience and economy, the department is housed in the magnificent new high school building, and much of the instruction is given at present by the regular

teaching force.

Under a special director, however, the work

promises to grow speedily into an entirely differentiated institution, which may parallel the success of the manual training high schools of that city. The commercial department in the Pittsburg high school was organized in 1872 for the benefit of those who for any cause were not able to spend four years in the high school and yet who desired some scholastic training in addition to that given in the ward or elementary school, and especially such training as will best prepare for business positions." It will be seen that the course was recognized to be a shorter one than the other four years' courses. Its commercial studies are essentially those of a so-called commercial college. At the same time it is so far an improvement upon them as it undertakes to give scope for general training. The curriculum is two years, instead of two months or one year. The first year is given up chiefly to general studies, the last to book-keeping, typewriting, stenography. Out of 1,918 students in the school 612, almost exactly one-third, were enrolled in the commercial course and of these 247 were girls and 365 boys. The program declares that the aim of the commercial department is to make the study of bookkeeping in its various branches a mental discipline for the commercial student similar to that produced by the study of higher mathematics in a classical course. A practical department containing various kinds of offices has been established which the students must work through in time. . The commercial courses in the Boston high schools is likewise only two years in length. Commercial arithmetic, bookkeeping, and stenography are begun in the first year, occupying about one-half of the time, while the rest is devoted to general studies like English, history, drawing, music, etc. The second year is much like the first; about one-half the time is given to the study of commercial subjects. In the Hillhouse high school, New Haven, Conn., while all the other courses are four years each, the commercial course is three years. About five hours a week, approximately one-third of the time, is given to strictly commercial subjects, the rest are of a general nature. Students who do the regular work well are permitted to take stenography and typewriting extra.

* The numeral after each course indicates the number of recitation hours per

week.

* See catalogue of the Pittsburg Central high school, 1897-8.

The work in the commercial courses of other high schools is along one or the other of the lines indicated above. It is at present a concession to a popular demand. It does not grow out of a conviction on the part of high school principals and teachers, that it is an essential part of the high school system. It will undoubtedly continue to grow and after a few good commercial high schools have formulated and solved the purpose of this kind of instruction, the average high school, profiting by their experience, will be able to organize commercial courses which will be better than those thus far elaborated.

In the opinion of the writer the technical work of the commercial courses in high schools is not as well done as in the better commercial colleges.

In the two classes of schools giving business training, which we have considered, are to be found nearly two hundred thousand students, a hundred and fifty thousand in the commercial colleges, if we accept the estimate above mentioned, and between thirty and forty thousand in the public high schools.

The third division of business schools or courses embraces the work of private secondary schools and public and private normal schools. There is the usual wide variation in what is here offered, but this class of schools plays something of a role in preparation for business with a total registration of nearly twenty thousand. (See Appendix.) The influence of this form of competition upon the ordinary business college has been already mentioned. How widely it may be felt can, perhaps, best be seen through an outline of what is open to business students in one of the best endowed secondary schools of the country, the Drexel institute of Philadelphia. This is chosen admittedly because its

« PreviousContinue »