College Teaching Part 60

College Teaching -

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The cultural aim of business courses is consciously kept in mind by the makers of curricula for colleges of liberal arts and sciences which permit a rather free choice of electives in the department of Economics and Business or of Political Science, according to the departmental organization of the inst.i.tution. Here, of course, we find Economics, which bears to practical business much the relation which Philosophy bears to active life in general. We find also courses in Money and Banking, usually offered from the historical and descriptive rather than the technical point of view. Recently, however, colleges have included in this field of election practical courses in Accountancy and Commercial Law. The tendency is in the direction of including more and more of the practical and technical courses, although the historical and philosophical courses are retained.

Nevertheless the cultural value is undiminished, unless one were to maintain that nothing which is exact can be cultural.

=Methods of teaching=

The field of business is so wide and embraces so many subjects that the methods of teaching giving the best results will be varied and used in different combinations with different subjects. Those subjects which are practical and largely habit forming, such as stenography, typewriting, bookkeeping, and the manipulation of mechanical and labor-saving office devices, are of course taught by some method of training which will insure quick reaction. In these courses the object is to cultivate habits of manual dexterity and habits of orderliness and neatness. Here we find that exposition is reduced to a minimum, lectures are few, recitations do not exist to any great extent, but that practice, 1st, to secure proper form, and 2d, to secure speed, is the controlling aim of the method. The teachers show their ingenuity in devising exercises which will give accuracy of form and then develop speed without sacrifice of accuracy.

In colleges these courses are reduced to a minimum because they are usually cared for in lower schools, but for students who come directly to the commercial college without them, preparatory courses of this sort are often conducted.

Among the technical subjects the one which calls for the most practice is, of course, Accountancy, first for the single proprietor, next for the partners.h.i.+p, and finally for the corporation. Various methods of presenting Accountancy have been suggested. Very few teachers employ extensive recitation work in this field. It is found most desirable to have periods of at least two hours' duration, so that the teacher can give such exposition and lecture work at the beginning of the period as he may see fit, and the cla.s.s may then take up practice. In some schools it is customary to have one course in theory, another course in practical accounting, and another course in problems of accounting.

However, the tendency seems to be in the direction of making these three aspects of the work mutually helpful, and the course is offered as a course in Accounting, Theory, Practice, and Problems. The theory is set forth in a lecture, practice is given with typical situations in mind, and then related problems are taken up for solution. Many excellent texts are now appearing and can be used in the customary manner. a.s.signments in these books tend to make unnecessary many long or formal lectures, but there still remains the need for cla.s.sroom talks and quizzes. As the course progresses, the problems become more and more difficult and complicated, and the final problem work is exceedingly difficult and calls for a considerable power of a.n.a.lysis, clarity of statement, and care in arrangement on the part of the student.

A complete course of this sort usually covers two and a half or three years. At the end of the first year of general accountancy, special subjects may be pursued parallel with the general course. The order in which these specialties are introduced is usually Cost Accounting, Auditing Systems, Judicial or Fiduciary Accounting, and then other special branches such as Brokers' Accounts, Public Utilities Accounting, Foreign Exchange Accounting, etc.

General Accounting is very important both as an instrument for the business man to use and as a training to insure the grasp of general business organization. It is the opinion of the writer that whether a business man expects to become an accountant or not, he should have a thorough and technical grasp of this subject. In these specialties it is necessary to depend upon lectures rather than textbooks, not only because textbooks here are few and other works are not well adapted to teaching use, but also because the subject matter must be kept up to date and in keeping with changing practice. The lecturers should be practical experts in each particular field as well as acceptable teachers.

Closely related to Accountancy is Commercial Law. Commercial Law should, of course, be understood by every business man, not because he expects to become a pract.i.tioner of law but because he wishes to avoid unnecessary disputes and to shape his course wisely from a legal standpoint in dealing with his employees, his business a.s.sociates, and his customers.

There are various methods of teaching Commercial Law. The one which has been in vogue thus far has been the textbook method, in which the principles of law of interest to the business man are set forth.

Lessons are a.s.signed in the book, and recitations are held. The lecture method also is advocated. In some universities which have both law schools and schools of commerce, the commercial students receive lectures in the school of law in such subjects as contracts, agencies, insurance, etc. It seems to the writer that neither of these practices is desirable but that the proper way to teach Commercial Law to the commercial students is the case method, in which the principles of law of interest to the business man are developed from an examination of actual cases of business litigation. We may very likely look forward to the publication of case books which can be used either alone or in conjunction with textbooks on legal principles. Lectures on law to commercial students should be reduced to a minimum, and then they should confine themselves to very broad principles which need no lengthy exposition or to fields in which the students may be expected to have a general grasp but no very detailed knowledge. But such subjects as contracts, agency, bankruptcy, sales, insurance, negotiable instruments, and forms of business a.s.sociation should be taught thoroughly to the student in the cla.s.sroom through the case method, in which each case is fully discussed by the cla.s.s and from which discussion legal principles are evolved. It is interesting to note that the states which stand highest in the matter of Certified Public Accountancy licenses are requiring very thorough preparation in law. To meet such requirements a course in law covering at least three semesters, three hours a week, with a case method is certainly necessary.

The modern languages taught in schools of commerce should be by the direct method, and always with the vocational end clearly before the student. Actual business transactions, such as selling to a foreign customer in the foreign language, correspondence, newspapers, catalogues and other doc.u.ments of business, should be the supplementary reading and exercise material of the cla.s.s. Facility in conversation and writing should be developed as rapidly as possible, and the grasp of the methodical rules should follow. It would probably be presumptuous to take a strong position here on the question of teaching modern languages, but experience with commercial students has clearly indicated that greatest progress can be made if the language is taught by a conversation or direct method from the very start, and if paradigms and rules of syntax are evolved after some vocabulary has been developed and some facility in speech has been acquired. We may say here, incidentally, that it seems wise to teach the spoken language for a while before taking up the problem of the written language, especially where the foreign language a.s.signs different phonetic values to the printed symbols from those a.s.signed in English.

While the various technical subjects offer different problems because of differences in their character, we may say in general that the aim of the school should always be to keep in touch with the actual practice in the business world; to have the lecturer use material which is up to the minute, and, where possible, to give the students the advantage of field work or at least to take them on tours of inspection in the different houses engaged in this or that line of business.

The curriculum of any good commercial college or university department of business includes courses in Economics, Commercial Geography, Industrial History, Business Management, and similar subjects. No doubt other chapters of this book discuss methods of teaching these subjects. But it may not be out of place here to indicate that the best approach to the study of Economics is through practical business courses in Accountancy, Commercial Law, and Practical Management.

Economics is the Philosophy of Business, and it cannot be understood by one who is unfamiliar with the facts of business. Certainly it cannot be related to real business life by the academic student. It would seem, therefore, best to reserve the course in Economic Theory for the senior year of a business course and precede it with courses in Accounting, Law, Industrial History, and Management. Then, when it is taught, it should be presented through practical problems from which the general principles may, by induction, be derived.

=Relations with the business world=

It is important that commercial education should not grow academic and remote from the real world of affairs. Therefore schools of business should keep in close contact with merchants' a.s.sociations, chambers of commerce, and such other bodies of business men as may be in the neighborhood of the school. Committees from such a.s.sociations should have either a voice in the conduct of the school, or at least have very strong advisory representation on committees. In France, Germany, and in fact most European countries, colleges of commerce were directly established by chambers of commerce and a.s.sociations of merchants, and the work is to a large extent conducted under their direction. Whether the college of commerce in America be a private inst.i.tution or one supported by the public, it should form some sympathetic contact with the leading business organizations. Of course certain business a.s.sociations have their own technical schools of training. The American Bankers' a.s.sociation conducts its own courses, drawing upon various universities for lecturers in some subjects and drawing upon experts in business for other kinds of technical work. So also various corporations have their corporation schools which seek to develop business executives by progressive courses of training for those in the lower ranks.

Nevertheless, the collegiate inst.i.tutions offering organized courses in commerce will do well to keep in touch with business men. Another way in which such schools and colleges can keep abreast of the times is to employ lecturers who do not make teaching their main business of life but who are expert in certain particular fields. Indeed, it is almost impossible to teach certain of the very advanced and specialized courses without employing men of this sort. They are attracted to teaching not by the pay but by the honor of being connected with an inst.i.tution of learning, and by sincere desire to contribute something to the development of the work in which they are interested. These men, of course, can be scheduled only for a relatively few hours a week, and sometimes they can be had only for evening lectures, but in any event they are very much worth while.

Obviously the director of studies in the college should give these men all possible a.s.sistance of a pedagogical sort, so that their advantages as experts in business will not be offset by deficiencies as teachers.

=Evening work in commercial courses=

This brings us to another consideration which is very important. It seems to the writer that the ideal training for a student who has reached the stage of entrance to college and who wishes to go into business is as follows:

He should enroll in the college course which is preparatory for business training and pursue his modern languages, Mathematics, English, and the Social Sciences, and also take up such accounting and technical work as he can have the first two years of his course. Then he should enter the world of business itself, be in a business house during the day, and continue his studies at night. It seems very desirable that this parallel progress, in organized theory and instruction, on the one hand, and in actual business with its difficulties which arise almost haphazard, should be carried on. The relations.h.i.+p is very helpful. Of course a subst.i.tute for this is the cooperative plan, in which the student spends a part of his time in college and a part of the time in a business house. Another alternative in inst.i.tutions which have the three-term year is to put two terms in at college and one term in at business. The calendar arrangement of any inst.i.tution will suggest variations of this suggested arrangement, the purpose of which will be to insure progressive development in business practice and also in collegiate instruction.

=Recent developments=

It is to be noticed that in the last few years business has become more and more intense. The developments are in two directions. The first direction is saving and efficiency through organization. This tends to keep down cost. The other direction is in the stimulation of the market and in perfecting advertising and selling methods.

Naturally there have been developments in the recording, accounting, and clerical ends of the business, but scientific management in production on the one hand, and scientific selling on the other, are the two great developments. In both, engineering plays a prominent part and dictates a close correlation of the business and the engineering curricula of a college or university seeking to give most effective training either to the student of business or the student of engineering. On the selling side we are having the further developments which come with the growth of foreign trade.

In order to meet the demand for men competent to organize production wisely and from a business viewpoint, more courses will be given in what we may call production management or commercial engineering.

Furthermore, the sales engineer must be trained. The curriculum of the course of collegiate grade should be made up somewhat as follows:

A two years' prescribed course in the general sciences and in general principles of business, followed by a two or three year curriculum in technical business management, on the one hand, including especially accounting, cost accounting, wage systems, employment management, and some branch of engineering on the other hand. The engineering course should be general but thorough. It should not go up into specialized fields of design, but it should include all the fundamental courses of engineering--of mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering. A combination course in engineering and business management is needed also to prepare men for places in banks as investment managers. The banks must advance funds to industrial concerns, and such loans cannot be made wisely save upon the advice of one who is thoroughly acquainted with plant management, equipment, and mechanical operations as well as costs of production and market possibilities. In addition, such a man must be well acquainted with systems of accounting and methods of preparing financial statements. In the field of salesmans.h.i.+p, engineering training is growing in importance. In short, the highly organized state of modern production and the tremendous part played by engineering in modern industry indicate the need for a close coordination of business and engineering education.

In conclusion we may say that business education is now at the stage where it has its own technology, is in close touch with other fields of technology, and is making its contribution to the general fund of modern culture. Texts and scientific treatises in the field of business are increasing, the pedagogy of the various included subjects is receiving satisfactory attention, and schools of collegiate and university grade are keeping abreast of the demands of the business world for adequate general and specific training in business.

FREDERICK B. ROBINSON _College of the City of New York_


COOLEY, E. G. _Vocational Education in Europe._ Commercial Club of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 1912. Chapters on Vocational Education in General, Commercial Schools, and the Conclusion.

FARRINGTON, F. E. _Commercial Education in Germany._ The Macmillan Company, 1914.

HERRICK, C. A. _Meaning and Practice of Commercial Education_, and other works in the Macmillan Commercial Series, 1904. There is an excellent bibliography on the whole subject of commercial education as an appendix to Herrick's Commercial Education.

HOOPER, FREDERICK, and GRAHAM, JAMES. _Commercial Education at Home and Abroad._ The Macmillan Company, 1901.

There are numerous contributions on particular aspects and general methods and special methods in commercial subjects. The best printed bibliography of these is in the back of Herrick's book. A typical work on methods is Klein and Kahn's _Methods in Commercial Education_.

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