Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 54. Popular Problems of Education

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 54. Popular Problems of Education

The last three or four decades have witnessed a marked change in the character of the literature relating to education. As in other phases of thought and action, the dominating influence has been that of science. Educational literature characteristic of the period is scientific, either psychological, experimental, or statistical; consequently it has become far more technical.

Old types continue, perhaps still dominating in mere quantity; but they are no longer characteristic. School publications of advice and device yet flourish, but the scientific educational journal now receives the support of a definite and daily enlarging clientèle. Official reports multiply with an annual certainty which sets at naught any Malthusian law in the world of books. But accurate statistical method is making an impression on the content, providing these forbidding tomes with an enhanced value; while the school survey has furnished an entirely new type. Works on pedagogy, addressed to the profession, have become so numerous as to preclude even comparison with those of the preceding period; yet the nascent sciences of psychology and sociology have given to many of these a substantial character which justifies a large allotment of space in libraries and bibliographies.

While there has been much of note along scientific and philosophical lines, literature as an art has paid little heed to the schoolmaster or his need. Professor William James “wrote psychology which reads like a novel,” and Henry James added to his novels the autobiographical volumes A Small Boy and thers and Notes of a Son and a Brother which contain muchmaterial of interest relating to the educational experience ofthe two brothers. Howells, Aldrich, and Hamlin Garland in their autobiographical volumes adorn the schoolday tales of their youth with the grace of the life of the imagination; but no Kipling dramatizes fully the incidents of school life and no Wells makes the novel the instrument of educational reform. The nearest approach to this standard is that of a few educational romances, whose appeal does not carry beyond the teacher’s circle. Chief among these is William Hawley Smith’s Evolution of Dodd, remarkable for its early failure due to the prejudice against the title, its later success, and the fact that though over a million copies have been sold the author received not a penny.