This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
Though all human beings are constituted on the same general plan, every instinct mentioned in the foregoing pages being present in every normal person, nevertheless persons differ. For example, that manifestation of the instinct of mastery which is usually called pugnacity may, in a given boy, differ in several respects from the same manifestation in another boy or in the average of boys. A stronger stimulus may be required to call it into action. The response may be slower in coming, and last longer. It may be stronger, summoning into action more of his powers and more rigidly inhibiting response to any different stimulus. The accompanying emotion of anger may at the same time be little in evidence, being subordinated to the cool purpose of beating the antagonist. Or the variation from the average may be just the opposite in any or all of these respects. When we think that the same scale of variations can be applied to every innate tendency and conscious activity, and then to each of the derived feelings and emotions, and then to the capacity for refining the emotions into sentiments, and then to the intellectual and volitional activities that accompany each feeling, we begin to see the varieties of which human nature is capable.
It is easily seen that there are two aspects of this subject, the individual and the national or racial. Both are elaborated endlessly in neighborhood gossip, meetings of teachers or parents, biographical writings, fiction, and history. As psychological and sociological problems, however, these two aspects are essentially the same.
Unfortunately, there is up to this time no generally accepted classification of these varieties of human nature, and many persons deny that such a classification is possible. Even in the classification of children that are subnormal - and they have received more attention from experts than any others - there is still no generally accepted system and no common terminology. But some standard method of describing individual variations is one of the needs of education. How must this appear to a physician? It should be as possible and desirable to have a technical terminology for the qualities by which people live as for the ailments by which they die. When a teacher wishes to report a pupil she needs accurate and well-understood terms in which to describe him. When the description is for a prospective employer, an employment bureau, or a teachers' agency, then it is useful only in proportion as the terms used are both definite and commonly used.
In my normal school the teachers were at one time required to hand in to the office every year characterizations of the members of the senior class. These characterizations were then compiled for use by the president in recommending graduates of the school for positions or for inspection by superintendents who came to select teachers. Now it certainly was our business as members of the faculty to understand the students in our classes and know their characteristics, particularly as affecting their probable fitness to become teachers. But the terms we used in writing these characterizations were as untechnical as those used in a village grocery to describe candidates for the office of sheriff. We had no common standard and no generally accepted terminology. Each of us hit off the characteristics in any phrase that suited his fancy: "A nice girl but a poor scholar"; "Able but has a bad attitude"; "All wool and a yard wide." The best characterizations were those giving concrete facts, which means that we had no general terms in which to describe personality: we could best tell what we meant by giving illustrations.
. . . Children differ so radically in capacities, desires, interests, and needs that what is an excellent opportunity for one is no opportunity at all for another. Equal opportunity for all must cease to mean the same curriculum for all. . . . - Johnston, The Modern High School, p. 170, Josselyn.
What we may call the New Era in education means just this - that we are becoming concerned with the great variety of mental capacities and with the greater varieties of combinations of these traits found in our students. In classroom work and also in extra classroom activities of the school we are rapidly working out a high school system of administration and teaching which is reaching and directing the individualities of boys and girls, their emotions as well as their intellects. The elective system, systems of high school advisers - "vocational guidance," "moral guidance," "educational guidance," and all such new and significant terms in high school administration but indicate how near this vital problem we are coming. - School and Home Education, Vol. 33, p. 206, Johnston.
To know more of the ways of conducting human affairs we must have more knowledge of the varieties of human nature, and there is no more opportune time for securing this information than during the years of childhood before life's duties and obligations make their impress on mind and character and render difficult the task of deciphering the natural from the acquired. - Educational Review, Vol. 33, p. 270, D. P. MacMil-lan, "Types of Children."
. . . First, in all grades girls do better than boys in oral reading. . . .
The results show that children of American born parents are superior in achievement during the first three grades and from that point on follow the average very closely. The fact that the American child is not handicapped by unfamiliarity with the English language gives him a slight advantage during the first few years. Italian pupils are seriously handicapped. The sections of the city in which these pupils live are such that factors other than mere lack of English in the homes are probably to be recognized as contributing to the low rank of these pupils.
The children in Jewish schools are distinctly ahead of the average Cleveland pupils. In spite of the fact that they are often surrounded by poor economic conditions and that they often use a foreign tongue, these children seem able to rise above their handicaps better than any other nationality under similar conditions. Poles and Bohemians make slow progress during the first year, follow the average closely for the next four, and then drop below the average during the last three years. . . . - Judd, Measuring the Work of the Public Schools, pp. 130-144, 147.