Excerpts from: A Course in Play for Teachers by Henry S. Curtis. Playground Association of America. Educational Foundations, November, 1909. A.S. Barnes and Company.
The idea of a course in play for teachers is somewhat startling at first blush, for the work of most teachers seems to have very little to do with play. To suggest it may seem almost an impertinence on the part of the committee.
The course is in line with developments all over the world. The Germans began to give courses in play to teachers about fifteen years ago. In 1903, it was reported that fourteen thousand teachers had taken these courses. This number has doubtless reached well into the tens of thousands now.
In the preparatory and public schools of England, as is generally known, play had been compulsory and a part of the curriculum for years. Many of our American cities have adopted a curriculum of games, but in most of them it is only advisory and is not insisted on.
The tuberculosis movement of the present time is emphasizing the value of fresh air and not a few educators are trying to impress upon us that health is the most fundamental consideration in education. All studies that have been made of the physical status of school children seem to show that they are suffering from many defects and illnesses. The child who seems to be full of abounding health is the exception. Professors of pedagogy and other experts on this question often keep their children out of school altogether until they are eight or nine years of age, because they feel it is better for the children not to go to school than for them to have such a long period of confinement and inaction each day at a time when nearly all their tendencies and interests are motor….In America as in England it will still be necessary to admit the children at six, in all probability. Parents have come to demand that the school take care of the children during the day. It is not so much that they want the children to be at school as they do not want to be bothered with them at home.
It is a truism to say that the whole educational world in this country is today in a state of profound unrest. We all feel that education should bear a very close relation to effectiveness in life and society, yet no one would say that any such direct relation exists today. The whole aim of our system is said to make scholars, but few ever become scholars. The things learned in school are soon forgotten and have little effect upon the character or vocational success.
I have in my possession more than 7,000 papers written by elementary and high school pupils on the subject The Teacher I Like Best. The notable thing about the whole series of papers is that the life of the classroom enters very little into the estimate. The teachers who are preferred and are said to have a lasting influence upon the pupil are the ones who have had some relations with him outside the classroom.