putterings       195   <   196   >   197       index

fine-spun arithmetic, sure and exact

The Sin of Sojering
To sojer: — to soldier, to make a pretense of doing something, to mark or kill time, to dawdle, loiter, dally, drawl, drag along, trifle, fritter, saunter, loll, dilly-dally, dabble, putter...
      The course of study in our schools is so arranged and applied in a way to turn out intellectual putterers. The conditions do not induce laziness exactly; for the work required in the aggregate is hard; but the sum is made up of numerous small parts which are but makeshifts at work — dabbling at the outskirts of work...

      And arithmetic is no fad! But it is a fad, drawn out and dawdled-over, as it is. And if high school people say “the pupils that come to us from the elementary schools do not have a sure and exact knowledge of arithmetic,” the grammar people may reply, “How can it be otherwise after eight years of fine-spun, method-cursed puttering?”
      The arithmetic of our elementary schools begins too early, and lasts too long. The application of numbers to business is dosed out to a child in elaborate lessons before he has lived long enough on earth to have a conception of the applications.

ex (anon.), “The Doctrine of the Major : A Plain Remedy for a Pure Evil,” in The School Journal 79:8 (June 1912) : 287-291 : (287) : link (Harvard copy, google books)
same : link (NYPL copy, hathitrust)


  1. The School Journal is situated in the “Progressive Education” movement of the late 19th century, that is outlined in wikipedia : link (interesting, down to present day)
  2. see also William J. Reese, “The origins of progressive education” in History of Education Quarterly 41:1 (2001): 1-24 : link

22 October 2022