Published Date

January 1, 1898

From The Study of History in Schools (1898)

That we have not dwelt at any length upon the desirability of devoting time to what is termed by the Madison Conference “intensive study” is because we do not see how in many schools sufficient time can be given to such work, and not because we advise against the adoption of that plan of work if there is time and opportunity in the school course. Indeed, we believe that the careful examination of a very limited period is highly beneficial. By intensive study we do not mean original work in the sense in which the word “original” is used in advanced college classes; we mean simply the careful and somewhat prolonged study of a short period. The shorter the period and the longer the time devoted to it the more intensive the study will be. Perhaps in the courses in English and American history time may be found to study one or two periods with special care and attention, so that the pupil may have exceptional opportunities to read the best secondary authorities, and even to examine primary material. For example, in English history it may prove possible to give two or three weeks instead of two or three days to a study of the important events and meanings of the Commonwealth, or to the ideas and progress of the whole Puritan movement. In American history it may be wise to study for a considerable time such subjects as the causes of the Revolution, or the Confederation and the formation of the Constitution, or the chief events of the decade from 1850 to 1860. When this plan of selecting a period or a topic for intensive examination is possible, the pupils can gain great advantage by the opportunity of delving deeper into the subject than is possible when all parts of the work are studied with equal thoroughness or superficiality; they can read more in the secondary material, can get a peep at the sources, and thus come to a fuller appreciation of what history is and how it is written. Only when good working facilities are at hand, however, and the teacher, knowing the material, has time to guide his pupils and give them constant aid and attention, will this plan prove very helpful.

Next section: The Need of Trained Teachers