Why Should They Look Behind Them?

Joseph Mayer Rice was a paediatrician and journalist who spent six months in 1892 visiting schools around the United States and reporting what he found through magazine articles. Here he presents another example of mimetic pedagogy in practice :

A Boston Classroom:

‘With how many senses do we study geography?’

‘With three senses: sight, hearing, and touch,’ answered the students.

The children were now told to turn to the map of North America in their geographies, and to begin with the capes on the eastern coast. When the map had been found, each pupil placed his forefinger upon ‘Cape Farewell’, and then ran their fingers down the map, calling out the names of each cape as it was touched … After the pupils had named all the capes on the eastern coast of North America, beginning at the north and ending at the south, they were told to close their books. When the books had been closed, they ran their fingers down the cover and named from memory the capes in their order from north to south.

‘How many senses are you using now?’ the teacher asked.

‘Two senses—touch and hearing,’ answered the children.

A New York Principal:

On why children should not be allowed to turn their heads: ‘Why should they look behind them when the teacher is in front of them?’


Cuban, Larry. 1993. How Teachers Taught: Constancy and Change in American Classrooms, 1890–1990. NY: Teachers College Press. pp. 26–28. || Amazon || WorldCat


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